Sunday, June 19, 2005

Wait Until Dark



Movie: Wait Until Dark (1967)

Very good little thriller about a blind woman (Audrey Hepburn) fighting off thieves. That sounds more dramatic than it is, because the bad guys are more like con artists, trying to manipulate her. Those mental machinations are a lot more interesting than mere violence, as the clever blind woman outwits the men. Excellent, though a little claustrophic -- like Hitchcock's Rope it's based on a play and the "whole movie in one room" aspect shows.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Waitress



Movie: Waitress
Writer(s): Adrienne Shelly
Director(s): Adrienne Shelly

Impressive film -- so sad this is the final one writer/director Shelly's career (she was murdered in late 2006). She's created some fascinating characters, so simple and elegant we see them with all their flaws and fall in love with them anyway. Warning: don't see this film when you're hungry. The title is puzzling since it's more about pie-making than waitressing. The main character, played by a wonderfully adorable Keri Russell, is a waitress at a little pie diner, who almost creates unusual pie concoctions which serve as the film's core. She's married to an abusive, controlling husband and when she discovers she's pregnant, she's depressed because she now feels really trapped because with a baby she'll never be able to leave her husband. Then she foolishly falls into an affair with her new male doctor, and though we're shaking our head, knowing this is wrong (she would agree with us), we still sympathize with her and understand and are actually pleased she's found at least a glimmer of happiness. The film tells a simple story beautifully and wraps everything nicely in a somewhat predictable but agreeable ending. Surprisingly profound at times, this is a film that doesn't try to be more than it is, completely unlike most films today. Highly recommended.

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Sunday, January 30, 2000

Waking Ned Devine



Movie: Waking Ned Devine (1998)
Writer(s): Kirk Jones (III)
Director(s): Kirk Jones (III)

I knew very little about this film going in... what a delight! Go out and rent it right now! This is set in a tiny village in Ireland, where someone in the village has one the lottery, but whoever it was won't admit it. Villagers go out of their way being nice to their neighbors, wondering if he or she's the winner. It's finally discovered that the winner is Ned Devine, a 66-year-old man, but the shock of winning has killed him! He's found dead in front of his television, the winning ticket in his hand. Soon the whole village has entered into a conspiracy to pretend that Ned's still alive and claim the 7 million pounds. Hilarious, and the characters are so real and wonderful, you wish your own town was so homey. Favorite moment? When the little boy asks the priest if he's met Jesus. The priest says, "Not exactly," then presses the boy to see if he's possibly interested in joining the priesthood. The boy says, "I don't think so. I couldn't work for someone I've never met and for no pay!"

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Sunday, May 6, 2001

Waking the Dead



Movie: Waking the Dead

Semi-interesting film about a young lawyer who's goal in life is to become a Senator. He meets a radical young activist and falls in love with her, but then she's killed in a car bombing. Years later, as his bid for Congress is looming, he's still haunted by her memory, and begins to see her. Is he dreaming or is she real? The movie leaves us in doubt, and seems to think that's clever, but frankly, after the first interesting sixty minutes, the film's boring.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Wal-Mart: the High Cost of Low Price



Movie: Wal-Mart: the High Cost of Low Price

I tried to prepare myself for bias before watching this anti-Wal-Mart documentary. I have mixed feelings about the company and wanted to keep an open mind. Unfortunately, this film makes no attempt at all at balance: its message is purely "Wal-Mart is evil" and no other viewpoint is even given a hint of exposure. That makes me question many of the film's conclusions. I really would like to know how pro-Wal-Mart people about some of the issues the film raises, but of course those views are not presented, so I'm left with a confusion of doubts and concerns. The real way to do a documentary like this is to show both sides and let the viewer make the decision about which is right. This one leans so blatantly in one direction it makes me want to lean the other way just out of spite! (I shopped at Wal-Mart immediately after seeing the film. It wasn't intentional -- I needed stuff at the pharmacy and they have the best prices for what I needed.) The film is also a bit shrill in some of its accusations. For instance, using emotional images of babies of single mothers who work at Wal-Mart but can't afford health care, interviews with small business owners who lost their business when Wal-Mart moved in, the whole segment on Wal-Mart parking lots' lack of security by showing emotional people who'd been mugged or raped, and the emphasis on "poor" Chinese Wal-Mart factory workers all felt manipulative to me. That isn't to say that there isn't truth in the film: some of the facts and statistics expressed in the film are enlightening and I'm sure Wal-Mart's not perfect and certainly needs to make improvements, but the way the film presents these things they come across weaker than they should. Just not good film-making. It's preaching to the choir -- it's not going to convince anyone to change their mind. People who already hate Wal-Mart will have new reasons for their hatred. Look at the genius of Super Size Me: it judged but only after the facts came in. Initially it was an experiment with no pre-drawn conclusion. That's a much more convincing way to argue. I was not convinced or impressed by this weak film. Disappointing, as I'd hoped to be enlightened.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story



Movie: Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

This is a funny parody of Walk the Line, the Johnny Cash bio, this time about a fictional singer named Dewey Cox. It's an almost literal remake with the key momments of Cash's life mocked and mixed up, with hilarious results. What's interesting is the realism that's preserved: the singing's actually good, the story's good (not just silly), and the acting's excellent. Many parodies are so cheesy they demean themselves as well as the original work: here everything is celebrated. Only occasionally does the film lower itself into silliness, like the bit about Dewey accidentally cutting his beloved older brother in half with a machette -- and even there it's done in such a way that it's not so realistic that it's disturbing yet realistic enough that it doesn't ruin the tone. All-in-all, other than a few moments of questionable humor, I liked this. It's fun, silly, entertaining, and clever.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Walk the Line



Movie: Walk the Line

I knew nothing about Jonny Cash -- I hadn't even heard any of his music. But the trailers looked interesting and I loved the music. The movie's excellent. Phoenix practicallly channels Cash, and Reese Witherspoon (as June Carter) is surprisingly good. The story focuses slightly too much on Cash's controversial relationships, affairs, and drug abuse; I would have preferred more time on his music and how he created it. However, it does seem to be an accurate representation of his life and I liked much about the way it was presented. Excellent movie and I just bought two Cash albums.

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Monday, July 21, 2003

A Walk to Remember



Movie: A Walk to Remember

Okay, this film is definitely sappy, predictable, and a weepy ending, but it still wasn't as bad as I expected. Mandy Moore is surprisingly low-key and does a decent job given the script. Unfortunately, her face is too cute to express real emotions. She needed scar or something to give her character. Make her bald; that would have worked. The story is nothing new: rebel boy meets geeky paster's daughter and falls in love with her. Why? Who knows. Because she's different, I guess. She sees promise in him. Her pastor dad is a horrible stereotype of religious fanatics, which is lame considering the circumstance and the way he's suddenly completely different near the end of the film. Basically this is a hodpodge of stereotypes put in a blender. The only really likable thing is the long-suffering Mandy, and even she's too good to be true. It has a couple moments and it was more interesting than I expected, but I still can't figure out how the film got financed. This kind of junk food is marketable but genius David Lynch has to struggle for movie money? Give me a break.

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Sunday, December 26, 1999

Walkabout



Movie: Walkabout (1971)
Writer(s): Edward Bond
Director(s): Nicolas Roeg

This is one of my favorite movies, for many reasons. I love the wildlife photography, and the story, which purports to be about survival in the wild but is really about survival within civilization (there's a lot to make you think about what exactly is the definition of civilization). It's a movie you need to see more than once, as it opens your eyes to life from a different perspective (but without preaching). It's a beautiful movie.

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Thursday, August 26, 2004

Walking and Talking



Movie: Walking and Talking

This is one of those modern independent films that tries to be like real life. That basically means it's slow, talky, and nothing much happens plotwise. I guess some people think that's profound. There's some lovely dialog, good enough for a play in places, but unfortunately this just doesn't work well as a film. It's too slow, talky, and just plain boring. The "plot" is basically about two best friends who grow apart when one gets engaged, leaving the other feeling alone and even more desperate to get married. As she struggles with relationships, the engaged girl struggles with potential marriage. Basically, this is just real life filmed and it's only slightly more interesting. It's got some good moments, and some good acting. I didn't not like it, but I wouldn't really recommend it either. It's certainly not a film you'd ever want to see more than once.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Wall Street



Movie: Wall Street
Director(s): Oliver Stone

I haven't seen this classic since the 1980s and I'd forgotten how good it is. Especially in light of the recent financial meltdown of Wall Street, this film takes on a new meaning (we haven't yet learned our lesson). It's somewhat predictable -- young guy gets his big Wall Street break but must sacrifice his ethics to do so -- but the setup and excecution is excellent, as is some of the dialog. The film has got too much of an anti-corporate message to be balanced, but some of the film's most important lessons are even more relevant today (such as the bit about Gekko, the corporate raider villain of the film, not making anything but gaining incredible wealth through owning and selling). Worth a rewatch if you haven't seen it in ages. Some of the stuff is very 80s, though, especially the hilariously primitive computers used by millionaire stockbrokers.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Wall-E



Movie: Wall-E

Pixar does it again! Another terrific film. This one is very different from previous outings: it's more similar to some of their dialogless shorts as there isn't much dialog. That means the story must be told via visuals and subtle character expressions. That's even more challenging when the characters are various kinds of robots, but the team at Pixar have done a great job conveying subtle emotions. The story is occasionally slow, but when it's going, it's going great, with tons of fascinating background visuals and gags that will mean you can watch this over and over again and see things you missed each time. There are hilariously quick bits like a shot robotic "mice" that look like Apple Macintosh computer mice, or the Macintosh start-up sound that plays when Wall-E reboots. The story is simple and elegant. After the earth is overrun with trash, the humans all leave to tour the universe on a luxury cruiseliner while robots clean up the earth, but 700 years later, the earth is still a mess and only one lonely "Wall-E" model robot is left, still compacting garage. When robot probe "Eve" shows up Wall-E ends up traveling back with her to the cruiseliner where he saves the humans and becomes a hero. The interaction between the robots is extremely well done: each have their own personality and yet there is minimal dialog (Wall-E can't even speak). Great for both adults and kids. Highly recommended.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit



Movie: Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit

This started out much better than I expected, with interesting characters and a story that seemed original, but the ending turned into a chaotic action piece that felt trite and out of place with the animation. Weak.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Wanted



Movie: Wanted

This is an over-the-top action movie that is a lot of fun if you don't take it too seriously. The special stunt effects are just as often funny as they are cool and are the main reason to see the film. The story's too far-fetched and mysterious to be much more than a frame for the spectacular action. The premise is that 1,000 years ago textile merchants put together a secret society of assassins (why is not explained) who still exist today. These assassins have almost supernatural power (like the ability to shoot a bullet in a curve or slow down reality so they can do impossible stunts). The main character's a nobody working in a dead-end office job who suddenly gets recruited into this society and is told his father was an assassin who was just killed by one of their own rogue members and it's time he be trained to use his hidden gifts. The training is absurdly difficult (like knife fighting with real cuts) but the boy is motivated because he wants to go after the rogue assassin who killed his father. Of course nothing is quite like it seems, but there are so many holes and questions in the plot that the whole thing is a bit silly, but if you're in the right mindset, the thing's so much fun you don't mind. Just go with the flow and ignore the stupidity and you'll have a good time.

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Sunday, March 23, 2003

War



Okay, I abhor politics but all this griping about the "war" with Iraq has got me irritated and I've just got to say my piece. Opinions to follow. You've been warned.

First, note that I put "war" in quotes. That's because call this thing with Iraq a war is a joke. We're talking Mike Tyson in the ring with a three-year-old with his ankles chained together. This is a skirmish or battle, not a war. That the media gives it this much attention is just because it's easy news for them, and the footage of explosions and missiles launching is high ratings. Yes, there will be (and have been) coalition casualties. But were talking hundreds, maybe thousands. Not hundreds of thousands. This is not a war. This is a battle. A war is something that will last for years. This will be over in months.

Second, the "anti-war" protests really bug me. That's mostly because they are supposedly against "war." That makes it sound as though if you don't agree with them, you are pro-war. Who was ever pro-war except for Gengis Khan or Hitler? War is horrible: people die. No one should be pro-war. Now there are many reasons to be against the decision of the U.S. to invade Iraq, but to be against it because you're anti-war is just stupid. Would you have been against the U.S. entering WWII against Hitler? (If so, most of the world would be speaking German today.) War might be an ugly thing, but this country was founded on war, and I'm proud and grateful to be a recipient of the freedoms I have today because of the blood sacrifice those farmers and pioneers made. Having a military force to protect society is one of the only excuses for a government to exist. If you're against us attacking Iraq, please say that. Say why (you think it's about oil, Bush Junior finishing what his dad didn't, political ratings, Saddam's a good guy, etc.), but don't just be "anti-war." I hate that.

Finally, you may be wondering which side I fall on. The truth is I don't know. The truth is my opinion doesn't matter. Bush has attacked without my advice and will continue to do so. Do I like Saddam? Hell no! I thought it was absurd we left him in power after Desert Storm. Really dumb. Now we're having to go back in and finish again, only this time he's rebuilt, rearmed, and possibly has weapons of mass destruction he'll use. The whole thing's a mess but the bottom line is it doesn't effect me directly and until it does I'll refrain from having that much of an opinion. I am sick of the debate, though, and the attacks on our brave soldiers who are risking their lives to do their job. I'm glad that we're actually attacking instead of sitting around talking about it for nine months. Maybe this will be over soon and we can concentrate on problems in the U.S. that actually effect Americans.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

War



Movie: War

I wasn't expecting much other than a simple action thriller, and while at times this was mediocre and we're purposely left in the dark as to what's going on, the "twist" ending is actually rather cool and works well. Decent if you're into this genre.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

War of the Worlds



Movie: War of the Worlds

I worried this would have the same ending as the book, which I hated, and it does. (Spoiler alert: I'm going to reveal the ending since that's essential to my comments). That ending -- that Earth bacteria/germs kill off the aliens -- could be made to work, but unfortunately, it's not. In fact, it's even stupider and more illogical in the film, since in the movie, the aliens have been planning their invasion for "millions of years" (how dumb is that). Wouldn't you think such a carefully planned invasion would sort of, like, check for diseases before invading? Wouldn't that be like Rule One of space exploration? Silly. Beyond that little flub up, however, the film's excellent. The character of Tom Cruise as a separated dad struggling to raise his rebellious kids part-time was good, and the action scenes and special effects were amazing. Unfortunately there isn't much intellectual depth here -- it's just a run-for-your-life sort of deal -- but it's well-done and interesting, which is more than one can say for most films.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Watchmen



I split the audience for this film into three groups: fanantics, fans, and virgins. I'm in the middle camp as I've read the graphic novel a couple times, but I'm not a comic book geek and don't worship the book. It is an excellent and amazing book, but a large part of that is the way it breaks the mold of traditional superhero novels. It makes sense that true comic books who are familiar with everything else out there would naturally think Watchmen is the greatest ever, and those people may or may not like this film. It's an amazingly tough job making a comic book into a film, as you not only have all the normal limitations of filming a novel (abridgement, pacing, etc.) but you also have to get the look and style correct to match the existing visual work. As a fan of the graphic novel, I thought they did a fantastic job. I can't speak for the fantatic or for someone who has never read the novel, but I thought this film was excellent. The look is awesome, the casting superb (I'd had some doubts going in but it worked), it struck me as amazingly faithful to the source material, and I was thoroughly entertained. I'd even go so far as to say that in some ways I liked it better than the book. The book is dense and complex, and while I love that, there isn't always time to absorb so much material. Also, the way the book is written, almost like episodes of Lost, where time is flexible and we jump between the past and present and future, it's so much to fit together that even though I've read the book a couple times, I have trouble remembering everything. I loved that the movie quickly brought back so many wonderful memories. Throughout the film I kept being surprised at scenes thinking, "I don't remember... oh wait, yeah, I do -- this part is awesome!" I love that now there's a version of Watchmen I can enjoy in a three-hour period. Granted, film is different from the graphic novel, and they each provide a unique experience, but for people who don't have the many hours needed to read the novel, the movie's a great way to get a taste of novel.

While I'm sure some fanatics will bemoan a missing scene or two, I was impressed at how much made it into the film, and at how clearly the story was told. The flashbacks weren't confusing but came at a logical time and gave you quick insights into each of the main characters without delving too much on unimportant details. The conclusion is terrific, with one of the most morally ambiguous conclusions ever, and I was relieved they didn't try to clean it up for the film by giving it a Hollywood ending. Hopefully it will provoke many to discuss things.

It's hard to say now how the film will live up in time. I think it will weaken in some ways -- there's so much dense backstory and setup in this epic work that it's tough to have a story that keeps moving ahead -- but I honestly can't think how they could have done this better.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep



Movie: The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep

Basically this tells the mythical story of the Loch Ness monster's origin, about a little boy in Scotland who finds an egg which hatches into a "water horse." It's a decent film, beautifully photographed and acted, and I loved that it's set in the past (the events happen during World War II) as that adds unusual elements. The digital creature effects are also remarkable. Unfortunately, the story itself is nothing surprising -- boy befriends creature, creature is threatened, boy tries to protect creature, boy's life threatened, creature saves boy, etc. It's the same plot as E.T. and dozens of other movies. Decent, fun, harmless, but nothing classic.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2001

The Way of the Gun



Movie: The Way of the Gun

Strange convoluted mismash about idiot kidnappers who steal a pregnant girl who's having a baby for hire. Distasteful. I don't care about any of these people, let alone their miserable lives. Worthless.

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Monday, November 19, 2001

The Wedding Planner



Movie: The Wedding Planner

Pleasant, if predictable, romantic comedy. Nothing remarkable one way or the other.

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Saturday, March 10, 2001

Weekend Movie Watching



Watched Meet the Parents on DVD and Molly again. Both were excellent, even better on second viewings. Recommended.

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

Welcome Home Party for Carol



Today we had a welcome home party for my mom. She's been in Togo for three months and this was a nice get-together of friends and family to hear her stories and see the pictures she took of her adventure. People came and went but I guess there were about twenty. We grilled beef, chicken, shrimp, and tons of veggies (zucchini, mushrooms, onions, and peppers), and I served it with brown rice with herbs. I made crepes for dessert. Filled with fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries, marionberries, and raspberries) and topped with Cool Whip they were yummy and not too bad in the nutrition department. It was a pretty good party!

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Welcome to Macintosh



Movie: Welcome to Macintosh (2006)

The key word to describe this documentary of Apple's history would be "competent." It is not ground-breaking, and the simple visual style, while adequate, is not ground-breaking or Apple-like (it's too plain). I learned little I hadn't already known (though some of the interviews were interesting), but then I've read numerous books and articles about Apple and have studied the company's history. One frustrating aspect for me, being knowledgeable on the subject, was information left out or giving short shrift, but for average viewers, this is a good way to learn about this fascinating company. Another problem is an unfortunate one of timing: the film was made in 2006, just before Apple unveiled the iPhone and leaped forward to dominate a brand new product category and revolutionized another industry. The documentary feels strangely lacking with no mention of Apple's most iconic product! Overall, this is well done and, like I said, feels competent. But Apple is not a competent company. They are a revolutionary one and deserve a revolutionary documentary. I'd love to see one from a truly innovative director with a big budget.

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Sunday, September 24, 2000

Welcome to the Dollhouse



Movie: Welcome to the Dollhouse

Terrific film. I'd wanted to see it long ago, but never got around to it, but as it's by the writer/director of the quirky film Happiness which I just saw, I really wanted to see it. It's the story of a geeky junior high school girl who's picked on at school and invisible at home. Quite unusual, and unlike the typical Hollywood cliche, the ugly duckling does not turn into a swan at the end. Brutally honest and occasionally viscious. My favorite scene? It's the dinner scene where the mom is trying to get the girl to say that she loves the (bratty) little sister and the girl's refusing. So the mom says, "Then you can just stay at the table until you tell you sister you love her!" You can imagine what happens. Forced love. I love it!

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Welcome to the Monkey House



Book: Welcome to the Monkey House
Writer(s): Kurt Vonnegut

This is a terrific collection of Vonnegut short stories. I liked that they reflect the wide variety of topics and styles. Some are more serious, almost dramatic, while others are merely quirky, and a few outrageous. But almost all are wonderful. My favorite is a surprisingly tender love story set in a small town about an anonymous man who comes to life each year as an actor in the community theatre. He literally becomes the character he's playing and changes completely, and in the end a beautiful woman falls for him and it's a delightful, magical romance because every week they read a new play together and he's a new person. I just loved the way Kurt captures the magic of the theatre and performance and combines with a clever story.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Whale Rider



Movie: Whale Rider

I loved this movie. Unlike most American "rebel" films, the girl in this movie is not intentionally rebellious. She's a rebel simply because she's not a boy. You see, the New Zealand family she's a part of has a tradition where the first born son becomes the chief, but her twin brother died at birth. Her grandfather, the current chief, resents her, because she lived and her brother, the rightful heir, died. But while her grandfather treats her terribly, the girl adores him. She worships him and would do anything to please him, but she cannot be the one thing he wants: a male leader. It is the powerful performances of the daughter and grandfather that drive this film, as their conflict is the heart of the story. Somehow the grandfather's stubbornness and loyalty to strict tradition must be overcome, and it is, in a moving and beautiful fashion that will leave only those without a heart without tears in their eyes. Terrific.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2004

What a Girl Wants



Movie: What a Girl Wants

As I expected: if you've seen the trailer, you've seen the film. The movie is just longer.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

What In the Bleep Do We Know?



Movie: What In the Bleep Do We Know?

Unusual film that's a cross between a documentary and a fictional story as it attempts to explore spirituality through science (quantum physics). A story about a deaf photographer who learns a new perspective that changes her life is at the core of the film and it's intercut with interviews from scientists who talk about quantum physics. Much of the science was familiar to me (though I did discover a few things), but I was disappointed that the film didn't try to explain any science but simply presented it as knowledge (when it's all theory and conjecture). The film does get you to think about complex and deep subjects, however, which is interesting and good, but does seem to have an agenda, which is not so good. I did like the presentation, which is visually interesting and the storyline keeps you involved with what could be a dense topic. Worth seeing, though I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

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Saturday, February 24, 2001

What Lies Beneath



Movie: What Lies Beneath
Writer(s): Clark Gregg and Sarah Kernochan
Director(s): Robert Zemeckis

Odd little thriller about a woman seeing ghosts. Doesn't seem like much, and the casting of huge stars Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer seems overdone, at least at first. But both relish these small, simple roles, performing them with appropriate subtlety. As the movie continues, it grows more complex, and though ultimately the plot is predictable and less than satisfying, the film delivers some nice chills. Excellent directing, with Zemeckis milking the minimalists scenes to good effect. The long climactic bathtub scene is a classic masterpiece, never rushed, and fits in perfectly with the low-key style of the film. (It reminds me a great deal of the flashbulb scene in Hitchcock's Rear Window.) After that things go overboard and there's too much action for a psychological film, but the end result is still a decent thriller.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

What the Dog Saw



Book: What the Dog Saw
Writer(s): Malcolm Gladwell

This book is a collection of Gladwell's terrific essays for the New Yorker. They're available for free on the New Yorker website, but I got the book anyway and found it an excellent read. There's an amazing variety of topics here, with essays spanning 15+ years, and always with Gladwell's unique story-based presentation and fascinating linking of the seemingly unrelated. There are far too many topics for me to cover them all, but I don't think there was even one article I didn't enjoy. The title one is about Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, trying to explain how he can communicate so well with dogs. There are many others on talent, teaching, and even dog biting. Excellent.

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Sunday, November 19, 2000

Whatever It Takes



Movie: Whatever It Takes

I have no idea how this movie ended up in my Netflix queue; I disclaim all responsibility. It's a lame teen Cyrano de Bergerac clone, with no actors you've ever heard of, and all the predictability of a Disney movie, but ultimately it's harmless. But why in the world is there a Director's Commentary on the DVD? Does anyone really care what this moron director thinks of this silliness?

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Monday, November 15, 1999

When the Wind Blows



Book: When the Wind Blows (1998)
Writer(s): James Patterson

Fascinating concept: a group of renegade geneticists create a new species of human, children with wings and the ability to fly. One of their experiements escapes and they must hunt her down (and destroy all witnesses) to protect their research. Unfortunately, it sounds more exciting than it is. Patterson throws in an unconventional FBI agent that's a cheap copy of Fox Mulder from TV's The X-Files and a beautiful veterinarian who falls in love with the agent and just happens to know a lot about genetics and birds. Basically, the whole thing's contrived, routine, and the ending makes you scratch your head and say "Why didn't they do that in the first five minutes???" Still, the book has good pace, and it's interesting, but like Chinese food, it leaves you hungry a few hours later.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are



Movie: Where the Wild Things Are

It's been ages since I read the children's book and I don't remember it well. I will caution that I read the book as an adult, not as a child. For some reason this one escaped my notice as a kid. While I remember thinking it was good, I don't remember it being great. I could name a dozen other children's books I liked far, far better. So I come into this not being a huge fan, but more neutral. And that's kind of how I felt about the film. It's good. It's got a handful of great moments, but mostly it's just good. So don't go into this with huge expectations or you'll be disappointed. The acting is excellent (the little boy is fantastic). The monsters are wonderful: somehow simultaneously scary and friendly. The pacing is too slow, and I found several aspects of the story problematic. The biggest one for me was the kid and the monsters playing "war" by throwing dirt clods at each other. As you might expect, this was exceedingly violent, with serious injuries as a result. It felt wrong and off. While I understand youthful enthusiasm and the invincibility of youth, the tone felt wrong for this story and for this little boy. While it obviously echoed the snowball from the beginning of the film, that ended in tears and if anything should have taught the boy a lesson, but it didn't, since he wanted to do it again this time with heavy dirt clods and monsters four times his size who could easily toss boulders if they wanted. The scene had an ominous, serious tone that while I understand the producers wanted such a feeling, it was too strong and too much for me. The way this story works for me is to hint at such things, not actually be them. In other words, threaten injury, but not actually have injury. This had the feeling of the "ha ha" practical joke that suddenly goes deadly and isn't funny any more, except in this case, the producers keep laughing and carrying on, ignorant to the fact that the audience isn't laughing with them any more. Of course this is just one scene and it's not that horrible, just a little off tonally, so it's not a disaster, it does not ruin the entire film. But tone is vital in a story like this and it does effect matters. There are a couple other areas where this happens and it works: it's just off enough it unsettles you, makes you wonder if the monsters really are going to eat the boy or accidentally hurt him, and that's good. That's what the book did: it generated real (dangerous) emotions from children. But the book did it in a way that was somehow still "safe." One way it did that is via time, the book being so short that the reader is not in a scary place for long. The film, unfortunately, is much too long, leaving us in limbo for such a long time that it's actually disturbing, not merely uncomfortable. Ultimately, this is interesting. It's well-done, but it feels drawn out with not much beyond the original premise happening. It would have been far better as a short. Do a thirty-minute version, or maybe an hour. Maybe an hour-ten, if it could be stretched that far. That would have condensed all the wonderful moments into a terrific sequence that would have been awesome. As it is now there are so many lulls and dry spells that they weaken the really good moments, and the conclusion is that the film is only okay, not great.

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Friday, January 14, 2000

Whirligigs



Book: Whirligigs
Writer(s): O'Henry

It's a sad truth that the short story market is suffering. Novels still sell, but few people read short stories any more. It's been a while since I've read a collection, but I'm definitely putting some on my shopping list: reading these was a terrific experience. They are short enough you can read one in ten to thirty minutes, yet they manage to envelope you in a world of their own. O'Henry writes with such verve and wit you just cannot help but smile through the reading, and so his many characters are inspired. This books contains dozens of classics. There are tragicomedies, fateful romances, stories of ill-fated robberies, Westerns, pursuits, and hilarious parodies. So many of these tales have made permanent marks on my psyche it's hard to know where to begin. A few things stand out: 1) O'Henry's ability to stamp a character with just a few phrases of description, yet keep the character from being a stereotype; 2) the elegance of O'Henry's prose, humorous almost without effort, and as ingenious as a riddle; and 3) the marvel of outrageous, clever plots that stem entirely from the characters and come across as natural and believable. An example of the latter? One story deals with star-crossed lovers. He's on the run for murder, hiding out in an anonymous South American town. He thinks she'll never marry him if she knows he killed a man in a bar fight. But when she confesses she's on the run for poisoning her abusive husband, they declare they are made for each other and agree to marry. Immediately after, however, a ship from the States arrives with the man the lover had supposedly killed -- he's not a murderer after all! He rushes off to tell his fiance that the wedding's off, only to discover she's read a months-old newspaper account that her husband didn't die from the poisoning, and she's left for America!

Here's an example of O'Henry style and wit:

"He wore his hat in such a position that people followed him about to see him take it off, convinced that it must be hung upon a peg driven into the back of his head."

(Note: The Amazon.com link above doesn't link to this book, but a similar one of O'Henry short stories; this book is apparently out of print. The version I read is in DOC format for the Palm PDA. The download is free!)

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Friday, October 18, 2002

White Oleander



Movie: White Oleander (2002)
Writer(s): Janet Fitch (novel)

Terrific film. I'm only a third of the way through the book, but I was very impressed at the accuracy of the script. The story's condensed a bit, but captures the tone of the book. At lot of the dialogue is straight from the novel, as is most of the narration. The story is a coming-of-age tale about a 13-year-old girl whose mother kills her boyfriend after he abandons her. The girl must grow up in foster homes as she struggles to find her identity and come to terms with her mother. The performances are excellent, especially newcomer Alison Lohman as the girl and Michelle Pfeiffer as the mom. This is a fascinating story about psychology and characterization. It's worth watching and I recommend the book as well.

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Whiteout



Book: Whiteout
Writer(s): Ken Follett

Rather routine by-the-numbers thriller from Follet. He takes a claustrophic situation -- bad guys holed up a family's house during a blizzard -- but the resolution is pretty ordinary. Some of the characters were interesting, but there wasn't much depth. Overall, I kept wondering why the book was written.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Whiteout



Movie: Whiteout

For some reason I had the impression that this was supposed to be good. I guess the marketing worked on me, though I hardly paid any attention. The premise didn't interest me all that much -- horror in Antarctica, big deal -- but it was promoted as the film's big feature, along with an all-star cast led by the lovely Kate Beckinsale, who, sadly, is the film's only redeeming feature. Well, the exotic landscape is interesting, but then most of the film is indoors or in a blurry snowstorm. The story turns out to be a murder mystery, but it's not much of a mystery, and the plot is so heavy-handed and ridiculous it loses all credibility. Nothing makes much sense and though the ending is predictable, you really don't care since the producers could have picked any of a dozen endings and it wouldn't make any difference. The whole thing is a sorry mess and I can't believe Kate got suckered into it. She's either desperate or needs a new agent. Stay away, far away.

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Friday, August 4, 2000

The Whole Nine Yards



Movie: The Whole Nine Yards

Okay, rather low-budget affair (oddly with big stars like Bruce Willis, etc.), and several silly plots about a dentist getting involved into the complexities of the mob and a contract killer who’s his next door neighbor.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Why I'm Beginning to Hate Android



Google had their developer conference last week and they did a shocking amount of Apple bashing. I keep up with tech news, so I have been following all the back and forth. I have been struggling with my feelings and it's been bothering me. I have literally been depressed -- like unheathy depressed -- and I realize a lot of it has to do with this Google-Apple battle. It reminds of the political scene, which I avoid completely, as the whole mess makes me want to move to Mars to escape the disgusting bickering. The sides are diametrically opposed, won't listen to each other at all, spew the same lies over and over until they sound like truth, and both claim to be correct.

The first thing to note is that I admit up front that I'm a fan of Apple products and I don't apologize for that. Note that I don't say I'm a fan of the company: that's an important distinction. I love products that make my life better, but I don't care who makes them. I could care less what logo is on the thing. If it works for me, then I support it. So far, Apple products have done that. I've been buying them since the late 1980s and they just keep getting better and better. I love my Macs, my iPhone, and now my iPad.

I used to be a big Google fan. I can still remember -- a long, long time ago -- when I switched my search engine from Alta Vista to Google. Google was a tiny company few had heard of back then. I loved the plain homepage that loaded up instantly and didn't have the awful clutter of Yahoo and other search sites. I loved many things about the company: their homebrew nature, their embrace of open source software like the Linux operating system, and the way they emphasized simplicity over Microsoft's embrace of complexity.

Today I have serious problems with Google. They have lost their way. The Google of today resembles Microsoft far more than early Apple. Like Microsoft, they are a huge company with an insanely profitable business and with a monopoly in their industry. (Remember, a monopoly in and of itself is not illegal -- only the abuse of monopoly power is illegal.) Google's monopoly on search is even more insidious than Microsoft's OS: at least Microsoft's is visible and you have to choose to buy it. Google probably has data on you if you've think you've never used the service!

But the business problem with a monopoly is that you've already conquered the market. There is no room to grow. Thus both companies have been on a voracious search for new revenue. They've bought their way in dozens of unrelated industries. Microsoft co-owns a television network and makes video game machines. Google's now making operating systems, just announced plans on getting into televisions and set-top boxes, is coming to tablets and netbooks, and will start selling music and ebooks soon. Where will it end? None of these new ventures are profitable and both companies have neglected their core products, but both have plenty of money to lose on experiments and apparently feel it's key to expand and get into these other markets in case they get lucky a second time.

Because I'm an Apple fan, perhaps it seems natural for me to resent Google's move into Apple's territory (I'm mostly talking about Google's mobile phone operating system, Android, which attempts to compete with iPhone, though Google is also promising to compete with Apple in a slew of other areas, such as music downloads). But I don't like to think so simplistically. I pride myself on being fair and open-minded. Am I such an Apple freak that my emotions are outweighing logical and rational thinking? Could it be that I'm overreacting because I'm afraid of Android? I don't like to think so, but until recently I wasn't sure.

Now I realize that my mixed feelings are the source of my dilemma. I have strong feelings and opinions about the Google-Apple battle, and I wondered why my emotions were so powerful. Some of the things I've heard recently have made me extremely angry. I don't like feeling angry. This has frustrated me and bothered me but I couldn't get a handle on it because I didn't want to pick sides based on emotion. I wanted to pick the right side.

I feel like the child of divorcing parents. Suddenly two people I looked up to are fighting and I'm lost and confused and bitter. Who do I support? Why must I choose? (A lot of my anger, I see, comes from being forced to choose.)

But Google is forcing this decision. They are actively attacking Apple. Has Apple ever attacked Google? Apple puts Google on their phones and used to have Google's CEO on their board of directors. They were friends. But Google is not just competing with Apple, they are bad-mouthing the company, spreading lies about Apple's products, promoting their own technology, and expanding to compete with Apple on multiple fronts. This is vindictive and nasty, just like a couple who once loved each other and that love has turned to hatred and they know each other's vulnerabilities and hot buttons. It is this nastiness that I am sensing and that has been depressing me. These are two great companies that I loved and supported. And I'm going to have to choose one. That pisses me off.

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Monday, September 4, 2006

The Wicker Man



Movie: The Wicker Man

I actually liked this. I haven't seen the original, so I don't know what that was like. The "surprise" is not much of one, and the long slow path to get there is exceedingly annoying, and there are huge holes in the plot and questions never answered. The worst is the strange car accident that opens the movie -- it was never explained and serves more as a red herring to confuse the situation and haunt the main character. But despite tons of flaws (including cult stereotypes), the story is somewhat intriguing, and though I thought I shouldn't have liked it, I did.

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Thursday, September 9, 2004

Wicker Park



Movie: Wicker Park

This is a severely flawed movie but it almost succeeds. It's a neat concept, playing around with identity and heartbreak. Basically, our hero was in love but his girl took off for Europe without an explanation. He was heartbroken, but it's two years later and he's about to marry his boss' sister. Then he thinks he sees his old girlfriend. She's gone before he can catch her, so he plays detective and tracks her down. When he finds her, he's disappointed to discover it's not her, but a completely different girl with the same name, same perfume, same clothing, etc. Without spoiling the twist ending, let's just say that explanations are forthcoming and make sense. Unfortunately, it's both the complexity and method of revealing those explanations that make the film bewildering, uncomfortable, and much too long. The film, essentially, is all flashbacks and dreams. It's often unclear if the scene was present day, two years ago, or a dream. Worse, the main character isn't the only one flashing back: several other characters do so as well. While that gives us looks at familiar scenes from different perspectives, it adds to the confusion. For the first hour the film is just bewildering and makes little sense. Eventually it does, but by that time you don't really care too much. The twisted plot is way too twisted, overdone, and full of itself; the movie goes on and on forever (it should have been 90 minutes max); and there are several sideplots and red herrings that should have been eliminated. That said, the film does have a number of positives. The twist in the plot is interesting. I liked it. (It just takes too long to get there.) The performances are also excellent, especially Rose Byrne, who is amazing: how she can alternatively be so plain and so striking I can't fathom. She's what makes the movie succeed for me. The others are decent, though mostly soulless. This is a strange film in that I didn't like it at all for the first hour, but liked the second hour and liked it after it was done. That leaves it with a bitter taste, only awkwardly successful. It really needed better direction and/or a new script not so dependent on flashbacks (ugh).

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Tuesday, August 29, 2000

The Wild Bunch



Movie: The Wild Bunch

Cool, violent, strange Western. It's strange because it's so different from other movies. It's basically about bad guys -- really bad, evil, despicable guys -- do a tiny bit of good in the end. Fascinating, exciting, and excellently directed. Hard for me to judge today as the film's a classic that has affected so many film-makers since, but it's obvious it was ahead of its time.

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Monday, March 5, 2007

Wild Hogs



Movie: Wild Hogs

The best thing about this film is that you get exactly what the trailer tells you to expect: four guys having a middle-age crisis go on a motorcycle road trip. Preposterous, predictable at times, occasionally dumb, occasionally hilarious, with fun casting choices, it's just a decent, feel-good comedy, completely harmless. There are a few crude scenes I found oddly out-of-place, and the ending's too pat, but overall it's just fun.

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Friday, March 14, 2003

Willard



Movie: Willard (2003)

This is the film about a shy loser who befriends rats and uses them to instigate his revenge. It's a mildly entertaining effort at a cult classic that doesn't quite make the cut. First, it's not vicious enough: the rats really only kill one person (his mother was on her last legs so I don't count her). For this to be really frightening or thrilling, we must see the rats' power more than a handful of times. Second, a part of the plot is that Willard doesn't have complete control over the rats -- this is the ending, where the rats turn against him, makes sense. Unfortunately, this also weakens the whole rats-as-weapon thing. It would have been much better if there was only a hint of lack of control once at the beginning (like when Big Ben disobeyed and got into the sack) and then the rats always obeyed Willard until the final scene when there was a sudden table turn. That would have been exciting. As it was, the first point means the rats aren't very scary, and the second means we aren't too worried about what Willard will do with them (since his control is questionable). Finally, the writing sets up Willard as such a sympathetic character, and all the other people in his life (mother, boss, co-workers) as so over-the-top cruel, that we're totally rooting for Willard and the rats. But then the film tries to make us think of Willard as evil for using the rats to kill, and that conflicts with the way we were set up to think. Weak. I also found it surprising that Willard had no special powers or connection with the rats. I guess the writer was going for realism, but I felt that weakened the story. It would have been much better if Willard had some sort of unique ability to "talk" to the rats and get them to do his bidding, like a Pied Piper sort of thing. (Speaking of viciousness like I did earlier, remember in the Pied Piper story he gains his revenge for non-payment by stealing all the children in the town. People tend to forget that tragic ending!) By giving Willard some sort of special ability, it would have enhanced his character, making him special. As it is he's just another loser wimp who discovers a way to get revenge. I really wanted to like this film, and there were things about it I did like, but just not enough to take it above average fair. It could have been a classic with more character development (less stereotyping) and more ominous actions by the rats.

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Friday, July 15, 2005

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory



Movie: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

This film is both marvelous and terrible; the producers take some horrible liberties with the story (adding in a strange lurking villain that is so stereotypical as to almost ruin the film) and make it a musical (huh?). There are a few great songs ("Candy Man"), but there are also several duds, and the musical aspect feels awkward and destroys all realism of the story. The casting is decent; Gene Wilder's happy-go-lucky Wonka is great until the odd ending (anger and confrontation is so not Wonka). The strange deviations of the script seem pointless and contrived. One aspect I liked better than the new film is the way this one reveals more of the factory, showing us glimpses of all sorts of intriguing and marvelous inventions. The new film just sticks to the plot. Overall both are decent films. The special effects in this old one suck big time, but it's not so bad it detracts from the story.

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Saturday, June 11, 2005

Wimbledon



Movie: Wimbledon

Nice light romantic comedy with a couple surprisingly earthy moments from Kirsten Dunst. I liked her character, however, as the reigning "bad girl" of the tennis circuit who falls for a former tennis great who's game is down but goes up when he's around Kirsten. Having him win Wimbledon is absurd but fun and well-executed, but overall the film's a little short of depth to be a true romance or classic.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Windstorm



Today there was a huge windstorm in Oregon (winds over 100mph at the coast) and a tree in my backyard fell onto my neighbor's house! Here's a picture of the tree:

Fallen Tree

I don't know what happens next -- the tree people are all extremely busy as practically every road in Oregon is closed with a tree down.

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Thursday, February 13, 2003

Windtalkers



Movie: Windtalkers
Director(s): John Woo

Somber WWII film, with plenty of graphic action and gore. The extended battle sequences are impressive, giving me a better understanding of the big picture of how a war works. For example, in one scene the group of men radio the ship of shore the coordinates of where to shoot the big guns, successfully blasting out some bunkered enemy troups. I never thought about the foot soldiers and the battleships working in cooperation like that. Educational. Unfortunately, what intrigued me about the film -- the Navajo "codetalkers" -- isn't enough of the plot. (I love codes and code-breaking stuff.) Instead the Navajos are merely pawns in the game, and we get to see racist treatment of them by other soldiers. Good performances all around, amazing action, but ultimately still a war film, which means it's a downer.

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Friday, February 18, 2000

Wing Commander



Movie: Wing Commander (1999)
Writer(s): Chris Roberts (II) (story) and Kevin Droney
Director(s): Chris Roberts

Being bored during action sequences doesn't bode well for a film. Essentially Top Gun in outer space, this thing's totally predictable. I love sci-fi and thought it looked interesting, but I got a lot of reading done during this movie.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Winged Migration



Movie: Winged Migration

Remarkable film about the migration of birds from the birds' point of view. We actually follow along side of flying birds as they migrate, giving us an incredible, never-before-seen view. The closeups and photography are truly amazing. However, there isn't any sort of plot to the movie and it gets a little repetitive even with different species of birds. Bird lovers probably won't find it boring, but I'm not particularly in love with birds (though this film certainly took me a step in that direction). I found the "making of" documentary on the DVD more interesting than the film itself. Here we learn how 500 people spent four years making the film, actually growing the birds we see from hatchlings so they would grow up used to the sound of ultralight motors and the presence of humans. Very impressive.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Winter Storm 2008 Photos



We've had crazy winter weather here in Oregon lately; I've posted some dramatic photos here if you'd like to take a gander!

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Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Winter's Bone



Book: Winter's Bone
Writer(s): Daniel Woodrell

This is a marvelously written book, practically poetry, with vivid descriptions of life deep in the Ozark mountains. The hero of the story is a 16-year-old girl whose drug-dealing father has disappeared, leaving her without any money to care for her two little brothers and her demented mom. Bravely she struggles on until she learns that her father put up their house and land as bond for his court appearance, but with him gone, it seems like the house will be forfit and the girl's family will be living in the fields with nothing. Unless the girl finds her father in time. Thus she sets off on a wild quest that takes her into some pretty dark places. This is a fascinating, chilling story about a world most of us didn't even know existed. Amazing. Highly recommended.

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Saturday, January 15, 2000

The Witches



Movie: The Witches (1990)
Writer(s): Roald Dahl (book) and Allen Scott II
Director(s): Nicolas Roeg

I hadn't seen this movie in years, but saw it was on the Disney channel the other night and recorded it. It's a superior kids movie, about a plot by witches to change all the children in England into mice. The special effects are a bit theatrical (lots of colored smoke) but fun, and the talking mice are really cool. Somewhat similar in humor to the Harry Potter books (except in this case magic and witches are evil). Overall, fun for kids, though its realistic and serious (i.e. non-cartoon) portrayal of witches could be scary for youngsters.

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Saturday, April 7, 2007

Wolf Creek



Movie: Wolf Creek

Grim and depressing serial-killer thriller about a group of people stranded in the Australian desert who get help from a seemingly well-meaning creepy, who then tortures and kills them. Well done with some twists that make the simple plot seem more elaborate than it is. Great villain.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

The Wolfman



Movie: The Wolfman

Strange film. Visually, it is occasionally stunning: terrific foggy forests, English manors, 19th century London, and of course scary wolf-monsters. Some of the latter is truly excellent with fantastic (and agonizing) visuals of hands and feet transforming into claws and hind legs, the fingers bending the wrong way. However, those same special are a few times almost laughably bad -- just the occasional glimse or two, but it's enough to confuse. Storywise, the film is similarly disjointed. It's a basic tale of a prodigal son returning home when his brother is murdered by a strange creature, and of course when he investigates, he ends up getting bitten and turning into a werewolf. But Benicio Del Toro is miscast as the lead, with his strange, carefully enunciated accent not matching up at all with his British father, played by Anthony Hopkins. It actually leads to confusion, as I times I found myself wondering if he was supposed to be a foreigner or if there was some subplot I didn't know about yet (i.e. Hopkins really wasn't his father, etc.). Such issues distract from the story. There's also a problem with the pacing of the film: it races at 90 MPH throughout, with little time for reflection or characterization. There are many moments when it seems to hint or lean that direction, but nothing comes of it, so it's more of a teasing promise that the film will be better than it is. The potential of a werewolf story is huge: themes of transformation, curses, good and evil, the beastliness of man, and so on, but this script takes little advantage of any of that. In the end this is nothing but an action/horror film with some wonderful visuals. I liked the visuals well enough to have liked the movie -- it's interesting viewing, especially the excellently bizarre nightmare sequence in the middle -- but I can't recommend it for most people as the story is too weak and the film too fractured.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Woodsman



Movie: The Woodsman

Nicely acted, slow-paced film about a criminal (Kevin Bacon) released on parole and trying to fit back into society. We aren't told his crime initially but we get the dreadful feeling we have an idea and are conflicted. We have sympathy for him but his crime is reprehensible. But is he reformed? Occasionally he acts like it, but other times it's hard to tell and we wonder. He seems to have remorse and worries he will fail again. This culminates in the movie's most dramatic scene where the man is tempted to act and we wonder what he will choose. That's when the predictable takes a twist -- and it's a really cool result. I won't spoil it by explaining it, but trust that this is a serious look at a taboo subject. Well worth your time.

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Saturday, March 3, 2007

Wordplay



Movie: Wordplay

This is a documentary on crossword puzzles and I wanted to see this as I hoped it would explain crosswords to me. I've never understood crosswords and it annoys me terribly. I'm a very analytical person and crosswords just baffle me. The clues have no rhyme or reason behind them and I find them utterly frustrating (to me they often cheat, being purposely obscure to the point of unfairness). Unfortunately, this film did not help me there. No mysteries were explained. Crosswords are still just as opaque to me. However, I still found the documentary rivoting -- the interviews were mostly interesting and I found the competition exciting -- but my favorite was the guy who explained how he creates crosswords, as he proceeded to write one just for the film, and the insights gained into his process were fascinating. But in the end my bafflement wins out. What the heck's the deal with crosswords? Why do people like them? How do they solve them? No answers.

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Saturday, June 15, 2002

World Cup Commentary



Soccer: World Cup Commentary

What an incredible tournament the 2002 FIFA World Cup is turning out to be! Amazing, unexpected, historic events are happening in almost every game. I don't know if it's because the tournament is being held in the Southern Hemisphere, but everything is backwards in this competition. World champions France are out. Favorites Argentina, who looked so good in qualifying, are flying home. The U.S. and South Korea upset fifth-ranked Portugal, whose dream is over. Brazil, which shocked everyone by struggling to get the World Cup, are doing great -- but they haven't faced serious competition yet. One of only two teams with three wins in the opening round (Spain is the other), and with the confidence of having already scored 11 goals, they now are the team to beat. Nothing is predictable in this World Cup and that's great. Anything can happen, and any team can be sent home.

The Americans, who played so well against Portugal, have struggled and played worse in every subsequent game. What's up with that? I realize the players are tired, that other teams have studied the U.S. games and know our weaknesses (that was very obvious in the Poland game), but the U.S. defense has looked like they were out-classed and over-whelmed. Offensively we've been stronger, but even there we're inconsistent. Mathis is a good player when he's on, but he fades in matches and it's like we're playing with ten men. Claudia Reyna has never impressed me: he was the reason for our poor play in France 1998 and I can't figure out why he's our leader. He can play well -- it's just that he often doesn't. The U.S. has a lot of players like that: Hejduk, Sanneh, Regis, etc. In the Poland game Reyna was ineffective in the attack, and he often gave the ball away leading to dangerous counter-attacks by Poland. Reyna does better when he sits back and defends, but he likes to move forward too much. I'd either bench him for the Mexico game or give him strict orders to sit back and act more defensively. At the back, Goose is a good player past his prime. I'm glad he's gotten some World Cup experience, but in truth I'm relieved he's out injured for the Mexico game. While he brings a lot of experience and stability to the U.S. team, he can do a lot of that from the bench. On the field he's a liability at this level. Unfortunately, the U.S. isn't deep in quality defenders, and that's definitely our primary weakness. But Mastroanni needs to be on the field (in any position). Pope has been great, but he can't do it all. He needs a partner back there. Heiduk has been excellent, playing better than he's played in years (people forget he was widely considered our best player at France 98 and he got his German contract based on that performance), but he's out suspended for the Mexico game. Eddie Lewis strikes me as the best substitute, but he'll need the game of his life. I'd tell him not to move up unless we're down more than one goal or up several: that leftback position is primarily for defense and we don't need forward runs that leave us exposed. Sanneh's just been brilliant, with his only mistake giving up the penalty in the Poland game. He'll be ready for Mexico. O'Brien had his weakest game against Poland, but he's a strong player. Stewart is also important, though I don't picture him going 90 minutes. Not starting DaMarcus Beasley in the Poland game makes me wonder what's going on the Bruce's head. Perhaps he was just trying to give DMB a deserved rest, but Beasley's a critical player for us. Not only is he super dangerous on the counter-attack, but he does some incredible defensive work, coming back and stealing the ball from the other team. He's our brightest star so far (not counting Brad Friedel, who's been insanely amazing). Landon Donovan needs to be more involved. He's already a much better player than Reyna, and the U.S. team would do better to run play through him instead of the captain. Landon's got so many good attributes: he's fast, has a great first touch, he's a lethal finisher, and has the best vision of the field of any American player ever. His quick flicks and through-balls are breath-taking, and they make him a double-threat: he can score himself or slip a ball through to a teammate who can finish. The best position for Donovan is "sunken forward" -- pair him with McBride and they can feed each other balls. McBride was invisible in the Poland game. After two great games from him, I put that to fatigue and the fact that the Poles were strong in the air. But McBride needs to be on the field: he's strong, can be lethal if given the chance, and he's a battler who can win balls for the U.S. in the upper midfield. I'd tell him in advance he's going to play for fifty minutes -- let him run his heart out -- and then sub in Josh Wolff. Wolff's speed make him dangerous and I'd like to see him get more playing time. Clint is the biggest puzzle. He's such a one-dimensional player. When he wants to he can be a playmaker, but much of the time his task is just to score goals. He can be a liability in how he gives up the ball. His passes are often weak and easily picked off, and in the Poland game he caused us a lot of problems by helping Poland start counter-attacks. Still, Mathis can be magical. He's got a spark that can invigorate a team. He can do amazing runs and strikes that are world-class. Depending on his attitude, he probably should start, though he'd make a dangerous sub as well.

Well, these are just my thoughts before the game. We'll see late tomorrow (Sunday night/Monday morning) who Bruce puts out and what happens. Good luck, USA!

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Sunday, June 30, 2002

World Cup Final: Brazil vs. Germany



Soccer: World Cup Final: Brazil vs. Germany

While others were predicting a goal-fest, that made no sense to me: I figured it would be 1-0 in favor of either team. First goal wins, in a sense. People criticize Brazil's defense, but their defense is actually pretty good. Germany might be able to score, but would be happy would a one-goal lead. Brazil's won their last few by one, as has Germany, so why not in the final where everything is at stake?

The first half was all Germany. They came out aggressively, but couldn't really find much of a goal to shoot at. Brazil defended, and Germany's physical play and tight marking meant they rarely got anything going. Although Brazil had the better chances, requiring a few desperate defender saves and saves from goalkeeper-of-the-tournament Oliver Kahn, Brazil only played in flashes, never able to build to a goal the way they like. In the second half, in was more of the same, but with Germany a touch more desperate and Kahn's saves a bit more frantic. Finally, on a hard shot from Rivaldo that seemed harmless as it went right at Kahn, the wet ball dipped at the last moment and Kahn's shutout streak went away. He couldn't hold the ball and fumbled his catch. The ball bounced out of his arms and right to the feet of a charging Ronaldo, the last person on the planet you want with the ball in front of goal if you're his opponent. He slid the ball into the net without breaking into a sweat, and suddenly Brazil was leading and Ronaldo had done what he'd vowed: score in every match of this World Cup! After that, it was time for Germany to attack ferociously, desperate for the tying goal. But that left them exposed at the back, and it didn't take Brazil long to capitalize. A half chance for Ronaldo and it was 2-0 Brazil. Incredibly, Ronaldo ties Pele's 12 World Cup goals (the most for a Brazilian) in the same 14 games. However, Ronaldo's only 25 years old and potentially has two more World Cups left. He might win the Golden Ball (tournament Most Valuable Player, decided on Tuesday by the world media) but he definitely wins the Golden Boot (most goals in the tournament with seven). Overall, a predictable performance by both teams. Brazil was quieter than expected, more like the troublesome team we saw struggle through qualifying and occasionally hiccup in this tournament (like in their lackluster 2nd match against Turkey). Germany played their predictable boring defensive game, lots of high balls in the attack, and relied on their super-keeper Kahn to keep them in the game. In the end, Brazil won, and that's great. It's their record fifth World Cup title (Germany and Italy have three each), and though this particular Brazil team is beatable, they did what they had to do in this tournament, and that's the bottom line. Good stuff. Final: 2-0 Brazil.

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Sunday, July 9, 2006

World Cup Is Done



Soccer: World Cup Is Done

Well, that's it. The World Cup is finally over! After a month of 64 soccer matches, I'm pretty happy and exhausted. Despite the U.S.'s failure and France's foul-up in the final, it was an excellent Cup. I'm disappointed that France couldn't win -- Italy played a dry, defensive game, despite all the talk about their new offensive style -- but that's the way it goes. Shameful of Zidane to lose his temper like that and get the red card; not a good note on which to end your career. But Germany, the hosts, were excellent, and the competition itself was wonderful, with lots of first-time teams competing well, some great goals. This Cup was more about parity than one team standing head and shoulders above the rest, but that's just a sign of how well soccer is progressing around the world.

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Saturday, May 5, 2001

World Cup Qualifier: Argentina at Bolivia



Soccer: World Cup Qualifier: Argentina at Bolivia

Wild game. After a nearly goalless first half, Bolivia's Paz put them ahead with a diving header. But minutes later Crespo equalized for Argentina on a corner kick. In the second half, it was all Bolivia. Are great volley from Colgue and a header from Botero put them two ahead and surely out of reach of Argentina who showed very little offense. But in the final few minutes, they did! Crespo got his second in the 89th minute, and Sorin found himself unmarked in the box off a free kick to score the equalizer in injury time. Amazing come-back! Final: 3-3.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2001

World Cup Qualifier: Brazil at Ecuador



Soccer: World Cup Qualifier: Brazil at Ecuador

In the first half, Ecuador dominated, though Brazil showed dangerous flashes. But shortly into the second half, Ecuador put together a brilliant run into the box and though the shot was going wide, Delgado slid into it to put Ecuador up one against the mighty Brazil. After that it was war: great chances on both sides made for a great game, but in the end, the goal held up, and Ecuador gets the major upset! Final: 1-0 Ecuador.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2001

World Cup Qualifier: Columbia at Venezula



Soccer: World Cup Qualifier: Columbia at Venezula

Crazy game. Venezula's Rondon got things going for the home team with a great header 22 minutes in off a terrible giveaway by a Columbia. Things were quiet for a long time, but finally the home team got another in the 82 minute by Arango on a shot from the top of the box. It seemed like mighty Columbia was going to fall. Then, suddenly, things changed. Bedoya's header one minute later gave Columbia hope, and then Bonilla's goal and a wonderful through pass equalized things! Who would have thought Columbia could come back in six minutes after showing no offense the whole game? Final: 2-2.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2001

World Cup Qualifier: Costa Rica at U.S.A.



Soccer: World Cup Qualifier: Costa Rica at U.S.A.

Awesome game! The U.S. played very well, with a number of quality chances, including a sure chip goal from Josh Wolff that was dramatically cleared off the goalline with a bicycle kick from the Costa Rican captain Parks. The U.S. dominated the first half, but Costa Rica forced Keller to make a few good saves in the second half. But the great news for the U.S. was Wolff's 70th minute goal. On the corner kick the ball bounced around in the box and came awkwardly to Clint Mathis. It looked like it hit his hand, though it obviously wasn't intentional (his hand was up in the air before the ball came to him), but the slight deflection may have helped as the ball dropped away from the keeper and right to Josh Wolff's feet. He barely need to touch it to put it in the net. The U.S. defended well after that, though there were some nerve-racking moments, but the Americans held on. The victory means the U.S. has -- incredibly -- won all three of their World Cup qualifiers so far (seven more to go) and with nine points is well on their way to a slot in World Cup 2002. They're leading their group by five points! Final: 1-0 United States.

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Saturday, March 24, 2001

World Cup Qualifier: Finland at England



Soccer: World Cup Qualifier: Finland at England

Awesome game! No regular league soccer this weekend as it's World Cup qualifiers, so I shelled out twenty bucks to watch this on pay-per-view. It seemed outrageous to me, but then some morons pay $60 for wrestling, so who's to say. Anyway, this turned out to be an excellent game. England was at the bottom of their group and this was a must-win for them to have any shot at going to the World Cup in 2002. Their new coach, Lazio's Erikson, had to come up with a critical win in his first real game (their recent friendly didn't count). Things weren't looking good when England's early pressure didn't yield a goal, and suddenly a mistake at the back deflected the ball into the net instead of clearing it: Finland were ahead. England kept pushing, however, and just before the half miracle boy Michael Owen became a hero when his long shot curled into the goal. In the second half, England came out storming, and Captain David Beckham came up big. He got the ball on the right side with some space and blasted it into the Finnish goal. He'd had a few great shots during the game and they all went right to the keeper, but this one struck pay dirt. The Finns couldn't come back from their deficit, though they fought hard and made the last ten minutes very interesting. In the end, though, all was well for England. Final: 2-1 England.

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Saturday, September 1, 2001

World Cup Qualifier: Honduras at U.S.A.



Soccer: World Cup Qualifier: Honduras at U.S.A.

Very sad that the U.S. lost their first game at home in sixteen years. It was a harsh loss: Earnie Stewart was both the hero and the goat, scoring two goals but missing the penalty kick that could have preserved at least a draw. Honduras certainly made the U.S. back line look feeble, beating them dozens of times, and requiring terrific saves by various players and the goalkeeper. The Honduras penalty was very weak (Agoos fell down before the other player; I find it difficult to believe that could be a foul): probably just a make-up call for penalty given to the U.S. Final: 3-2 Honduras.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2001

World Cup Qualifier: Mexico at U.S.A.



Soccer: World Cup Qualifier: Mexico at U.S.A.

AWESOME GAME! This begins the first of ten brutal final games that will determine which three teams from the CONCACAF region go to World Cup 2002. It is critical the U.S. do well, but fifteen minutes into the game, our best striker, Brian McBride, had to be taken out of the game with an injury. He'd bonked heads with a Mexican player and his right eye swelled up horrendously -- I've never seen anything like it. His eyebrow was the size of a baseball, swollen so big it closed his eye and he couldn't see. A half hour after that, the engine of the American team, Claudio Reyna, had to be taken out because of a groin strain. Terrible, just terrible, and Mexicans were really pressing the U.S. Remember, in international play only three substitutions are allowed per team per game, and we'd used two in the first half. The game was played in Columbus, Ohio, in twenty degree weather, and it sure looked like doom was in the air. But just two minutes into the second half, the two substitutes worked major. Clint Mathis, of the New York/New Jersey Metrostars, put in a fantastic 50-yard ball over the back line of the Mexican defense. Speedster Josh Wolff, in terrific form at the Olympics in Australia, burned up the track, rushing past the defenders to grab the ball and run upfield. Mexican keeper Jorge Campos raced out to stop him, but wasn't quick enough to beat Wolff. Wolff's touch bounced the ball against Campos and came back, hitting Wolff and going forward. It was a bit of luck and a bit of opportunism, but Josh did well to grab the loose ball and coolly put it in the back of the empty goal. The U.S. led 1-0. After that the Mexicans went all out to defeat the U.S. The took off defenders and put in attackers, and pushed and pushed, but the U.S. held well. A couple of times Brad Friedel, the American keeper, had to make a save, but the U.S. defense was so good he really wasn't tested. Still, in such a close game, anything can happen, and the packed stadium held their breath for 42 minutes. That's when Mathis and Wolff combined again, with another long ball and Wolff running toward the corner flag, obviously attempting to waste time. But suddenly he broke free, miraculously dribbling out of a maze of Mexican defenders and running up the end line toward the goal. His sidefooted pass was glorious, perfectly placed, splitting the Mexican defenders, and going right into the path of the onrushing Ernie Stewart. Stewart didn't waste his opportunity -- he just blasted it into the goal. Wow, not only was the U.S. winning, they were winning well. And this was without two of our key players! Amazing, and a real triumph of American soccer. It might be premature or overkill to say it, but from what I saw, this game marks a new day in American soccer. A decade from now we just might look back at this game as being the start of something amazing. From the Olympics to the full national squad, young Americans are proving that they can play the world's game. Remember, this wasn't a Sunday match-up: World Cup qualifying games are taken extremely seriously around the world. To put this in perspective, in 90 World Cup qualifiers Mexico has only lost 10 times. Think about that! And make it eleven. Final: 2-0 U.S.A.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2001

World Cup Qualifier: Trinidad & Tobago at U.S.A.



Soccer: World Cup Qualifier: Trinidad & Tobago at U.S.A.

The U.S. got off to a terrific start with Ante Razov, who threatened mightily against Jamaica when he was put in for the last few minutes, got the start. Just two minutes in he scored on a terrific 40-yard feed from Jeff Agoos (Captain of the San Jose Earthquakes). Minutes later Ernie Stewart had a one-on-one with the keeper and flubbed his shot, but made up for in the 20th minute when he stole the ball from a defender and ran on to score. The rest of the game the U.S. defended well, and T & T weren't without their chances. Man of the Match was Agoos, who stopped many of T&T's attacks. Great game, great result, and the U.S. has now almost clinched a spot for World Cup 2002. Next they face a huge game against Mexico in Mexico City on July 1. I can't wait. Final: 2-0 U.S.A.

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Sunday, October 7, 2001

World Cup Qualifier: U.S. vs. Jamaica Pre-empted by Talking Heads



Soccer: World Cup Qualifier: U.S. vs. Jamaica Pre-empted by Talking Heads

A mix of good and bad. ABC had the nerve to completely pre-empt the coverage of the U.S. National Team's World Cup Qualifier against Jamaica, an absolutely cruicial, must-win game for the States, with talking heads rattling on about the U.S. bombing Afganhistan. I understand them needing to report breaking news, but 1) there was nothing to report (no one knew anything), 2) what's wrong with occasional news briefs or a running headline underneath the game coverage? and 3) ABC could have moved the game to ESPN or ESPN2. (They did, apparently, air the game tape-delayed on Monday on ESPN, but of course I didn't know that until after it had aired, too late to record it.) Finally, does anyone really care about this "war?" Is anyone surprised or alarmed? Isn't this what we've been expecting since Sept. 11?

Now for the good news: the U.S. not only won their qualifier, 2-1, but upsets in other qualifiers mean that the U.S. has officially qualified for World Cup 2002! It was a fluke series of events: Mexico and Costa Rica earned a 0-0 draw for one point each and Honduras was stunningly defeated at home by bottom-of-the-group Trinidad and Tobago! Those results leave both Mexico and Honduras with 14 points and only one game remaining, a head-to-head clash in Mexico. Only one of the two will be able to qualify (a tie puts Mexico in, so Honduras must win). The U.S. faces Trinidad and Tobago in November, but that game is of no significance now. (Prior to the other results, the U.S. had to win today's game and the game in Nov. to qualify.)

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Wednesday, November 15, 2000

World Cup Qualifier: U.S.A. at Barbados



Soccer: World Cup Qualifier: U.S.A. at Barbados

Whew! This was a critical game for the United States: a loss and they miss going to the World Cup in 2002. They easily beat Barbados 7-0 at home, but in an away game, anything can happen. As if to prove that point, it started out poorly for the U.S., with the horrible, choppy, wet field creating havoc. The ball rolled awkwardly, passes missed their targets, and erratic bounces threatened an accidental goal. Barbados had a few chances, but the game really didn't get going until about a half hour in, when Meola's save ricocheted off a teammate to nearly rebound into his goal but hit the post. Mathis had a great chance for the U.S., but the wet ball didn't allow a clean hit and struck the post. Late in the second half, with a mere half hour to go, the situation started looking nerve-wracking for the United States. Shots went wide or were saved, and Barbados looked dangerous on the occasional counter-attack. Then came the play of the game, when Joe-Max Moore brilliantly dribbled the ball up the endline and put back a nice center to Mathis who barely had to move to knock the ball into the goal. Things were dicey for a few minutes as I worried the Americans would relax too much, but then Eric Stewart was given an hour of time at the top of the box to line up his shot: his blast nearly punctured a hole in the far side netting. After that, the game really went to the United States. On a fantastic through-ball from Mathis, Cobi Jones darted in behind the Barbados defense and slipped the ball under Stout, their keeper. Then, in injury time, Ante Razov got a nice pass in the box and finished it easily. Final: 4-0 United States. The U.S. advances to the next round of qualifying (which continues through November 2001) where the top three teams (out of the United States, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago, and either Guatemala or Costa Rica, depending on the outcome of their playoff game) will go to the World Cup finals in 2002.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2001

World Cup Qualifier: U.S.A. at Costa Rica



Soccer: World Cup Qualifier: U.S.A. at Costa Rica

Another sad day for the Americans. This time, they have reason to be sad. Before last Saturday the U.S. was tied for first place: after this game, they are in fourth and in serious danger of not qualifying for World Cup 2002. If the way they played in this game is any indication of future performance, they not only don't deserve to go, but I would hope they don't go: this was positively embarrassing. Coach Bruce Arena made the unadvised decision to play for a tie and put in 9 defensive players. The plan backfired when the U.S. collapsed under the tremendous Costa Rican pressure and gave up a penalty kick goal early. Then the U.S. needed a goal for a tie, but there weren't enough U.S. attacking players on the field! From there it just got ugly: the U.S. hardly had any offense at all, gave up a second goal, and just looked panicked and beaten from the kickoff. It was one of the worst performances of the U.S. National Team I can remember (including France 98). Just terrible. The U.S. still has a chance for World Cup if they win the two final qualifying games (which are against weaker opponents). That's good, in a way, because Arena won't be able to play for the tie: he'll have to go all out on offense. But the Americans need some solution at the back to shore up the defense and they desperately need a spark up front with injuries to superstars Clint Mathis, Josh Wolff, and Brian McBride leaving the U.S. woefully lacking in striker talent. Final: 2-0 Costa Rica.

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Saturday, June 16, 2001

World Cup Qualifier: USA at Jamaica



Soccer: World Cup Qualifier: USA at Jamaica

Good game, with some great saves by both keepers. Jamaica never loses at home, but the U.S. got the tie they wanted. Just a couple more wins and the U.S. is through to the World Cup 2002. The U.S. looked good, but I'm a bit worried about the scoring drought. We'll see how they do on Wednesday against Trinidad and Tobago before I get too worried. Final: 0-0.

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Monday, November 20, 2000

World Cup Qualifier: Venezuela vs. Ecuador



Soccer: World Cup Qualifier: Venezuela vs. Ecuador

On the low-end of South American soccer, I didn't expect much, but was pleasantly surprised. Ecuador took the lead almost immediately with a terrific finish inside the box by youngster Kaviedes: he took a long pass down on his chest and slotted the ball past the keeper on his second touch when the ball dropped to his feet. About twenty minutes later, Ecuador got their second on a long bomb from Wellington Sanchez that the Venezuelan keeper magnificently bobbled. A few much contested free kicks for each side did nothing to change the scoreline, so Ecuador went into the locker room at the half two up. But in the second half, Ecuador's poor defense let in a pass inside the box and Arango finished it. There were calls for a Venezuelan penalty kick moments later, but the ref didn't call it. Then Venezuela hit the post, followed by a dangerous free kick opportunity that was blocked by the wall. The game got rough and extremely tense as the clock wound down, but in the end, Ecuador's slim lead was all they needed. Final: 2-1 Ecuador.

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Thursday, June 8, 2006

World Cup Starts Tomorrow



Soccer: World Cup Starts Tomorrow

The 2006 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament starts tomorrow! I am SO excited. I am feeling a little alienated. Here in the States I feel like a foreigner. No one seems to understand or care about the significance of the World Cup. "It's like the Olympics times ten!" I cry, but I just get blank looks and bewildered shrugs. For most, it's an event about a sport they don't pay attention to, but for me the World Cup has nothing to do with sport: it's all about history, human achievement, artistry, spectacle, and hundreds of cultures uniting for a full month of peace. It's about celebrating life, your nation, and enjoying healthy competition.

I don't hold out that much hope that U.S. will do as good as 2002 -- we're in an ridiculously tough group with Italy, Czech Republic, and Ghana, all great teams we've never beaten -- but cheering on your nation is not the only reason to watch the World Cup. I watch every game, all 64, and I don't care who's playing, some unknown African nation like Angola or a powerhouse like host Germany. I know how important just getting to the finals is for a country like Angola, and what it will mean for their nation if they accomplish anything -- a goal, a draw, a win. The World Cup is the most amazing event in the world, period. It's every four years, like Olympics, but instead of watering down the event with hundreds of medals and sports, it's just one medal, one champion out of 32 finalists out of 200 teams that took over two years just to qualify. The World Cup is a microcosm of human history in a nutshell, to playfully mix metaphors. It's 30 days of glory, passion, agony, and triumph. There's nothing else like it in the world.

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Friday, June 7, 2002

World Cup: Argentina vs. England



Soccer: World Cup: Argentina vs. England

Easily the most anticipated match of the first round, given the historic games between these two countries. It was a physical battle, but England took control from the start. Argentina had a lot of the ball, but rarely managed to get it out of their half. Batistuta had one good header on goal, but it was right at the keeper. Most of the time Seaman had little to do in the England goal. Michael Owen was brilliant, sometimes intimidating the Argentines to much they put five men on him! The scary part was that even with five men on him he still looked dangerous. Against three men he managed to ping a shot of the post, just inches from scoring. Though David Beckham was slow to get in the game, once he did his deft touches made a huge difference, keeping possession of the ball for England, and just being calm and confident on the ball. Late in the first half, Owen was brought down in the box and England awarded a penalty. David Beckham easily put it away and all of England went mad. In the second half it was more of the same, with England settling back but looking strong, and Argentina did very little. It looked like they didn't want to win very badly, but their loss combined with Sweden's win, puts Argentina at the bottom of the group and in danger of not making the cut. If Sweden and England both draw or better in their final games, they advance and Argentina goes home. Basically, it's a must win for Argentina in their game against Sweden. That's a game where Sweden would be happy with a tie, so it's going to be tough against the organized Swedes. Should be good. England gets to play the eliminated Nigerians and should advance. Final: 1-0 England.

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Sunday, June 2, 2002

World Cup: Argentina vs. Nigeria



Soccer: World Cup: Argentina vs. Nigeria

Excellent game that could have gone either direction. The Nigerian's showed great attacking drive, but were weak on the finishing. While their goalkeeper made a number of terrific saves, his indecision on a cross ended up costing his team a goal, which, of course, was scored by Batistuta. Argentina looked weaker than I expected. Though they'll win this group, they didn't dominate the way I thought they should have to be true champion contenders. But it's a long tournament. Maybe their form will pick up. Final: 1-0 Argentina.

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Friday, June 14, 2002

World Cup: Belgium vs. Russia



Soccer: World Cup: Belgium vs. Russia

Terrific game! Why is Belgium producing some of the best games to watch in this Cup? Their game against Japan was one of the best so far, and this was a terrific game, with great goals at both ends. Belgium jumped ahead early on a fantastic free kick, but Russia came back to tie, then Belgium put a two-goal lead in the second half. Russia got one more and that made the final minutes of the game very exciting as a draw would see Russia through. Unfortunately, they couldn't equalize, and Belgium advances to the second round. Good stuff. Final: 3-2 Belgium.

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Monday, June 10, 2002

World Cup: Belgium vs. Tunisia



Soccer: World Cup: Belgium vs. Tunisia

Surprisingly interesting game. Belgium played their typical defensive style while Tunisia were impressive, attacking vigorously with lots of chances and keeping Belgium on their heels. Wilmots scored for Belgium, while a terrific free kick from Tunisia equalized. Unfortunately, though Tunisia tried hard, they just couldn't quite get the winner. Belgium can still get through, but they need a big win against Russia. Final: 1-1.

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Monday, June 17, 2002

World Cup: Brazil vs. Belgium



Soccer: World Cup: Brazil vs. Belgium

Ho hum game. Brazil played like they were asleep most of the game, and Belgium dominated and had a number of excellent chances (including a legitimate goal by Wilmots waved off). Finally, Brazil woke up on a great goal by Rivaldo, who spun 360 and put the ball away. Ronaldo added to the tally late in the game, continuing his ridiculous scoring rate. Belgium played very well and deserved more, but unfortunately them's the breaks. They go home and Brazil advance to play England. Final: 2-0 Brazil.

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Saturday, June 8, 2002

World Cup: Brazil vs. China



Soccer: World Cup: Brazil vs. China

An absolute rout, but the Chinese, in their first World Cup, played well and deserve a handshake. Roberto Carlos got things started with an amazing free kick -- a blast from forty yards out and nearly tore a hole in the net! Rivaldo was next, taking a great cross and finishing it easily. Then Ronaldinho got his chance on a PK after Ronaldo was taken down. In the second half, the Chinese got chances when a shot hit the post and a free kick almost went in. But Ronaldo got his goal to seal the victory. Final: 4-0 Brazil.

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Friday, June 21, 2002

World Cup: Brazil vs. England



Soccer: World Cup: Brazil vs. England

Disappointing game. England started off well. Brazil had most of the possession, but 23 minutes in, Michael Owen, on his first (and only) touch of the game, scored. The defender, Lucio, couldn't control a pass, and left the ball for Owen, who pounced on it and cleverly (and easily) finished. It looked like England, who had one of the best defenses in the Cup, was going great. But in first half injury time, Beckham didn't kick a ball out of play, allowing Brazil to start a counter-attack that culminated in Rivaldo scoring. Five minutes into the second half it got worse for England -- with Seaman ridiculously off his line, Ronaldinho took a long distance free kick, and instead of crossing like everyone expected, he chipped Seaman to give the Brazilians the lead. I've never been a Seaman fan -- I like Nigel Martyn way better -- so hopefully this will be an inglorious end to his national team career. But I can't say that Seaman lost the game for England. That second goal seemed to kill something in the team. A spark went out. Beckham was quiet, Owen invisible, Heskey did nothing, and Scoles was just terrible. Offensive substitutes Sheringham and Vassel added nothing, and England went out with a whimper, scarely fighting. A shame -- I was hoping for a more competitive match. I love Brazil, but when their coach subbed out Ronaldo while they led by just one goal, I was rooting for them to lose to just spite his stupidity. I hate those kind of substitutions. But Brazil held on (or rather, England didn't have anything to offer) and they advance. Final: 2-1 Brazil.

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Monday, June 3, 2002

World Cup: Brazil vs. Turkey



Soccer: World Cup: Brazil vs. Turkey

Excellent game until the last few minutes. Brazil had tremendous offense and was only kept off the board by the Turkish keeper. Turkey looked dangerous on the counter-attack, and sure enough, just before the second half they took a 1-0 lead. Brazil quickly game back in the second half with a goal by Ronaldo, and after that it was a good old-fashioned battle. Near the end, however, the ref got involved, red carding a Turkish player for a foul outside the penalty box, but he gave Brazil a penalty kick anyway, and Rivaldo converted. That bad call put a sour note on the match, and then a Turkish player kicked the ball at Rivaldo as he waited to take a corner. He fell down like he was shot (it was not a hard kick) and the idiot Turkish player was sent off. Dumb play. Anyway, the good news was that Brazil played some beautiful ball and Turkey, despite the loss, played well. Final: 2-1 Brazil.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2002

World Cup: Brazil vs. Turkey



Soccer: World Cup: Brazil vs. Turkey

Repeat games can be either duds or dynamite. The first game between Brazil and Turkey was terrific, but this one was lackluster. Turkey didn't play nearly as good as they did the first time, and though their defense held up for a while, they gave a tiny bit too much room to Ronaldo and he took advantage with a quick shot that caught keeper Rustu off guard and knocked Turkey out of the semi-finals. Turkey rarely showed much in the way of offense, and in the end, they deserved to lose more than Brazil deserved to win. Final: 1-0 Brazil.

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Thursday, June 6, 2002

World Cup: Cameroon vs. Saudi Arabia



Soccer: World Cup: Cameroon vs. Saudi Arabia

You'd have figured that after their 8-0 loss to Germany, the Saudis would become the whipping boys of the group, but they put on a surprisingly feisty performance here. In the first half, the Cameroons couldn't score, and Saudi Arabia actually had a few chances themselves (more than in the entire Germany game where they attacked maybe twice). In fact, at one point in the game they were out-shooting the Africans 9-7! But in the second half, a beautiful through-pass gave Cameroon a chance and they finished it off. After that, while the Saudis looked dangerous at times, it was over. Unfortunately for Cameroon, they couldn't score more goals, and the way this group sets up, a tie against Germany in their next game, combined with an Ireland win against Saudi Arabia, would put three teams tied at 5 points, meaning that goal differential would be the deciding factor. With Germany's huge 8-0 advantage in that category, Cameroon needed to score a bunch of goals in this game. It's hard to predict, but I'd say Cameroon, who were considered by many to have an outside chance at the title, are going home (due mostly to their lackluster performance in this game). Germany and Ireland will advance. Final: 1-0 Cameroon.

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Thursday, June 13, 2002

World Cup: Costa Rica vs. Brazil



Soccer: World Cup: Costa Rica vs. Brazil

Costa Rica had impressed so far, but now their lackluster play against wimpy China (only winning by two goals) came back to haunt them as they needed a draw against Brazil. That seemed unlikely as Brazil quickly went ahead by three, including an amazing bicycle kick goal. But Costa Rica fought back with two goals of their own, a result that if it had remained, would have put them through on goals scored. But Brazil were merciless, playing wonderful soccer and putting a few more goals to finish them off soundly. In the other game, Turkey had the gall to win 3-0, a result that also hurt. So Costa Rica is done. Brazil has yet to face significant competition, but right now they are looking the best in the tournament, which, oddly, with all the struggles they had in qualifying, is surprising. Final: 5-2 Brazil.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2002

World Cup: Costa Rica vs. China



Soccer: World Cup: Costa Rica vs. China

Surprisingly good game. China started off attacking and looked pretty good. Costa Rica didn't do much. But in the second half, China went defensive and Costa Rica turned it on, scoring twice in four minutes. Both goals were excellent. Gomez set up the first, sending a back heel through-ball to star Wanchope. But his shot was blocked. Gomez smacked the rebound with his left foot high into the net to give Costa Rica the lead. Four minutes later, Gomez's blind cross into the middle found a wide open Maurico Wright (formerly of the San Jose Earthquakes) who beautifully finished with a glancing header that gave the Chinese keeper no chance. Final: 2-0 Costa Rica.

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Sunday, June 9, 2002

World Cup: Costa Rica vs. Turkey



Soccer: World Cup: Costa Rica vs. Turkey

A critical game for Turkey as a loss would eliminate them. I was excited about this game after seeing Turkey's terrific play against Brazil, but that must have been a different team: this collection of players did very little, and Bastuk, who was so good against Brazil, was a non-factor here. After a scoreless first half, Emre proved Turkey with a lead with a cool goal where he spun 120 degrees with the ball and slid it inside the near post. When Costa Rica couldn't equalize, it seemed they were going down, but with five minutes left they managed an opportunity, and finally, after countless shots going way high, they put it in the goal. With just minutes left, Turkey scrambled desperately. Then came a bizarre sequence with Emre losing his temper and shoving the Costa Rican assistant coach who didn't give the ball back fast enough after it had gone out of play near the Costa Rican bench. Ridiculous. In the end, though Costa Rica played better, neither team really deserved the three points. With Costa Rica scheduled to play an already-advanced Brazil in the next game, Turkey still has a chance. If they win against China and Costa Rica lose to Brazil, both teams will have four points, so the deciding factor will be goal difference, meaning a Turkish win by three goals over China will allow them to advance. Final: 1-1.

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Sunday, June 2, 2002

World Cup: Croatia vs. Mexico



Soccer: World Cup: Croatia vs. Mexico

Surprising game. After a tough qualifying round, the good Mexican team showed up and really pressed the Croatians. Croatia didn't play badly, but they didn't have the spark they did in France 98, where individual players lifted the team to unprecedented heights. Unfortunately, the ref had to help decide this match, awarding a deserved penalty to Mexico when Blanco was clearly taken down in the box. But the ref also ejected the Croatian player, which was harsh, and the result was that was the end of the day for Croatia. Mexico, while they played well, did not capitalize on their extra man, which could cost them if goal difference becomes a deciding factor to get out of the group. Final: 1-0 Mexico.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2002

World Cup: Denmark vs. France



Soccer: World Cup: Denmark vs. France

World Cup 2002 has brought us many surprises, and is proving to be one of the most fascinating contests in years. This result is definitely one of the top stories. In France 1998 the French team was criticized because they had no real strikers (Henry, Trez, and others weren't established), but they ended up scoring a boatload of goals and winning it all. Coming into this tournament France had proven goal-scoring talent, with three players leading three different leagues in scoring. Unbelievable talent and everyone predicted France would be in the Championship again. But all that individual talent didn't translate into teamwork. In France 98 the team worked together, with everyone contributing the goals. This time it seemed all the pressure was on the forwards, but the link between the mid-field and them was weak, and they rarely even got positive chances. They lost against upstarts Senegal in the opening game, then had the tournaments only nil-nil draw. This game had more of the same. France needed a two-goal win to advance (a win would only tie them with Denmark with goal difference as the tie-breaker), but couldn't even score one goal. Denmark scored twice and defended well, and though France through everything they had at them, it wasn't enough to break through. Admitedly they were without their best striker, Henry, who was suspended because of his red card in the previous game, but that's still no excuse. Unbelieveably, the World Champions go home not only without advancing past the first round, but without scoring a single goal. That's worse than the U.S. in France 98 -- we at least had one goal! Wow, astonishing stuff. With all these upsets, surely a lot of betting houses will be going under. Final: 2-0 Denmark.

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Thursday, June 13, 2002

World Cup: Ecuador vs. Croatia



Soccer: World Cup: Ecuador vs. Croatia

Cool result. Ecuador really played well and Croatia was just anemic and deservedly lost. I'm delighted with the result, as considering the controversy with Croatia's game against Italty it would have been unfair for Italty to have been knocked out. And by losing to Ecuador Croatia can't blame anyone else for not advancing. Final: 1-0 Ecuador.

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Saturday, June 15, 2002

World Cup: England vs. Denmark



Soccer: World Cup: England vs. Denmark

Which England would show up for this game? The aggressive one, that's who. Five minutes in Rio Ferdinand scores off a corner kick, then Michael Owen gets a great goal off a through-pass. The mediocre Heskey finally gets his first World Cup goal giving England a sweet three-goal lead into the second half. After that, the game was a bit boring. England controlled everything, delivering a perfect example of how to defend a lead (unlike the U.S. against Portugal). A deserved win, but now England must face the winner of Brazil/Belgium. Any bets on who that will be? Final: 3-0 England.

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Sunday, June 2, 2002

World Cup: England vs. Sweden



Soccer: World Cup: England vs. Sweden

Odd game. I like both teams and I have Swedish ancestry, so the result is probably appropriate. But I was disappointed with England's lackluster play. In the first half they were filled with fire, but after their early goal, they relaxed and Sweden got into the game. In the second half it was all Sweden, with England looking mighty pathetic and frantic. The result does neither side any favors, though it doesn't hurt. The group's still up for grabs. Final: 1-1.

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Friday, May 31, 2002

World Cup: France vs. Senegal



Soccer: World Cup: France vs. Senegal

Finally, the World Cup is here! For the next 30 days I'll be in soccer heaven, attempting to watch every minute of all 64 games (while simultaneously working full-time and launching a magazine). This first game tested my loyalties slightly, as I've lived in France and am a big fan of the defending world champions, but then I grew up in Senegal, and while I don't literally have Senegalese blood in me, I certainly feel like I do. So it was great to see Senegal reach their first World Cup and play well against the champions. When Senegal got a shot on goal within the first minute of play, I knew they were a team I liked and this was going to be a great attacking game. Sure enough, Senegal scored first in the first half, and while France had a few good chances, in the end the Senegalese played excellently while the French were mediocre and never took a hold of the game. Final: 1-0 Senegal, a huge upset. Go Lions!

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Thursday, June 6, 2002

World Cup: France vs. Uruguay



Soccer: World Cup: France vs. Uruguay

Well, it finally happened -- the first scoreless game of WC2002. Who would have thunk it would happen in a game with France? But it wasn't a boring game. France desperately needed a win. They managed a draw which barely keeps them alive. But they had an excuse this time, playing better than in their first game, but the surprising ejection of Thiery Henry mid-way through the first half after a rash tackle meant they had to play with a lone striker the rest of the game. That gave Uruguay plenty of opportunities on goal, but they squandered them. Recoba sent a free kick, his specialty, a mile high over the goal, and later, when he'd drawn Barthez out of his goal and dribbled around him, with an open goal to shoot at he hit the side netting! Granted, he was shooting from an angle and running in full stride, but still, at this level you just have to finish. Late in the game France put in Cissie, their other top striker, and he actually threatened the Uruguay goal better than either Henry or Trezuget ever did. He's the leading scorer in the French league, but for some reason he's sat on the bench the whole tournament. (France are blessed with three strikers who are the leading scorers in three different leagues. Wow. Yet shockingly, France haven't scored a goal!) Ultimately this result keeps both teams alive, but just barely. They each need a massive goal-fest win in their final game to continue in the tournament. Final: 0-0.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2002

World Cup: Germany vs. Cameroon



Soccer: World Cup: Germany vs. Cameroon

Cameroon had a tough task: with Ireland most likely to win their game, giving them five points, and Germany's incredible goal differential due to their 8-0 win over the Saudis, a tie wouldn't be good enough: they must win to advance. They played best in the first half, but couldn't finish. Germany had a man sent off late in the half and it seemed that Cameroon was in the driver's seat. But in the second half, Germany's substitute Bode scored just five minutes in. After that, the game was over. Cameroon tried, but still couldn't finish, and then had their own man red carded. Then Germany added another goal and Cameroon's World Cup is done. Final: 2-0 Germany.

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Saturday, June 15, 2002

World Cup: Germany vs. Paraguay



Soccer: World Cup: Germany vs. Paraguay

Yawn. Boring game. There were pathetically few shots on goal in the game, especially in the second half. Paraguay was obviously playing for a penalty kick shootout, all defense, and Germany had trouble breaking them down. Finally, in the 88th minute a great cross and Oliver Neuville snuck in at the far post to flick it into the goal and the Germans are ahead. Desperate, Paraguay puts in a striker, but he's only got minutes to do his magic, and that's just not enough time. Suddenly Paraguay's day is done, and deservedly so. Lame. To work so hard to get to that second round only to not even try to win is just dumb. Go home, Paraguay. Go home. Final: 1-0 Germany.

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Saturday, June 1, 2002

World Cup: Germany vs. Saudi Arabia



Soccer: World Cup: Germany vs. Saudi Arabia

My only complaint here is about ESPN. What are they thinking???? ABC isn't going to air the Ireland-Camaroon game until 3:30 p.m. this afternoon, yet in the first minute of this 4:25 a.m. broadcast they tell us the result of that game with no warning or anything! Don't they want us to watch the ABC game? It's so ridiculous and infuriating. While I appreciate ABC/ESPN covering the World Cup, if any other network would take over the duties, I'd go for it. They've go to be the most incompentent network on the planet. I already have to tape paper across the bottom two inches of my TV screen to keep from seeing the idiotic running scores ticker, which often reveal the score of the games you haven't seen yet. But when they blantantly announce the final score of a game that hasn't aired yet, that's just stupidity.

Okay, rant off. Back to soccer. Wow, a complete blow-out. I wasn't excited about this game (the Saudi's are usually poor), but I was curious about Germany, who haven't been in best form the past few years. But they showed world class domination in this affair, putting in four goals in each half! Wow. Absolutely incredible. Germany's biggest win in World Cup history. I hereby predict the Saudi's coach won't last the day. Final: 8-0 Germany.

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Saturday, June 1, 2002

World Cup: Ireland vs. Cameroon



Soccer: World Cup: Ireland vs. Cameroon

Terrific game. The first 35 minutes stunk as neither side seemed to want to attack, but finally they got over whatever was making them tentative and began to fight. Cameroon owned the first half, with tons of chances that culminated in a goal. But Ireland showed they had skill in the second half, attacking relentlessly and nearly connecting on tons of chances. They equalized on a great long shot by Matt Holland. In the end neither side could top the other, but it was a great hold-your-breath fight until the final whistle. Final: 1-1.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2002

World Cup: Ireland vs. Germany



Soccer: World Cup: Ireland vs. Germany

Routine game for the most part. Germany got on the board mid-way through the first half and really didn't look back. Ireland pressured, but couldn't break through the German defense. Late in the game the tall guy, Niall Quinn was put in, and injury time his knock-down header dropped between two defenders and in the path of Robbie Keane. He pounced on the loose ball and coolly stuck it in the net to tie the game. Germany's hopes of a victory and advancement to the second wrong faded and Ireland's huge point save keeps them alive in the group. With Saudi Arabia left to play, they're in great shape. Final: 1-1.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2002

World Cup: Ireland vs. Saudi Arabia



Soccer: World Cup: Ireland vs. Saudi Arabia

Good game, with Saudi Arabia playing much better than in previous games, but Ireland persevered and played very well in the second half scoring two more goals to give them a decisive victory. Ireland needed a two-goal win, which sounded tough since Ireland has never scored more than one goal in a World Cup match, but they did it this time. Final: 3-0 Ireland.

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Saturday, June 8, 2002

World Cup: Italy vs. Croatia



Soccer: World Cup: Italy vs. Croatia

Terrific game, though extremly controversial refereeing. Italy's first goal was called back because of an invisible offside situation, but Vieri finished off a beautiful header to give the Italians the lead. That's when I felt the Italians made their mistake: they didn't continue to press, but sat back, content with their lead. Italy is famous for 1-0 victories, but this time it didn't hold up. In the second half Croatia came alive and poor marking allowed a cross to be easily kicked in. Minutes later, one of the best goals of the Cup. After the first chance was rejected, the clearance was headed back in, and this time it was finished with a chip so soft it was almost a lob. It literally just floated into the top corner while half the planet watched with bated breath. With Croatia on top, Italy now had to play, and they pressured magnificiently. A Totti free kick hit the post, inches from equalizing. In injury time, Italy thought they'd scored, but the goal was called off due to a pulling foul. On replay, no foul was evident. In the end, Croatia's goal stood, and since I love underdogs, I was happy, but the Italians have a case that they'd been robbed. Fun match, though. Final: 2-1 Croatia.

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Monday, June 3, 2002

World Cup: Italy vs. Ecuador



Soccer: World Cup: Italy vs. Ecuador

Boring game. Ecuador forgot to show up. Italy scored twice in the first half hour, both goals by Vieri (the first was terrific with an assist by Totti), but after that Italy didn't have to work hard. Ecuador played slightly better in the second half, but never really got into the game, barely registering a shot. Final: 2-0 Italy.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2002

World Cup: Japan vs. Belgium



Soccer: World Cup: Japan vs. Belgium

If you're going to watch this game, just skip the first half, which was incredibly boring with no chances on goal from either team. But the second half was incredible, one of the most exciting so far in the Cup. First the Belgians go things going with a fantastic bicycle kick goal from Marc Wilmots. With their good defense, it seemed Belgium was all set. But minutes later a communication error at the back as a defender let the ball go through to his keeper, and a quick Japanese player (Suzuki) pounced on it and just managed a toe to put it in the goal. Japan was back in it with the huge Japanese crowd going mad. The goal awoke Japan and minutes later they scored again on a marvelous individual effort as Inamoto beat the back line and put in an incredible shot to beat the keeper. But Belgium had their own answer to that, capitalizing on a Japanese bad offside trap that let in a player behind the back line, and he gracefully chipped it over the keeper to level the score. Wow! Great stuff. Late in the game Japan had a terrific individual goal from Inamoto where he beat several players in the box to score, but the goal was called back, apparently for offsides. Belgium had their own appeal for a penalty in extra time, but it wasn't given. In the end, a decent result for both teams. Great stuff. Final: 2-2.

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Sunday, June 9, 2002

World Cup: Japan vs. Russia



Soccer: World Cup: Japan vs. Russia

Good game. The Japanese played with passion and vigor, while Russia was anemic. Japan scored a great goal by Nakata and earned their first World Cup victory. They now have a good shot at advancement, especially considering their next game is against Tunisia. Final: 1-0 Japan.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2002

World Cup: Japan vs. Turkey



Soccer: World Cup: Japan vs. Turkey

Yawn. Games are often tight in elimination bouts, with the team leading afraid to take risks. Turkey goal a goal early and just held on, taking the crowd out of it, and putting the pressure on Japan to score. Japan never looked into it, seemingly resigned to a loss from the beginning. Turkey had no problem with that, and though Japan looked dangerous a few times, they never truely threatened the Turkish goal. Rather a weak exit for Japan, who'd looked very strong in previous games. Final: 1-0 Turkey.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2002

World Cup: Korea vs. Poland



Soccer: World Cup: Korea vs. Poland

Terrific game, but bodes ill for the U.S. The Korean team was just on fire, playing attractive attacking soccer the whole game, and scoring two gorgeous goals of incredible skill. What can one say about Poland? Their keeper, Dudek (one of my favorites), played well, but every other player was asleep. If they play like this against the U.S., we should easily win. But with Korea already registering a win, that pretty much means the U.S. needs to win two to advance (a win and a draw might not be enough). Final: 2-0 Korea.

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Monday, June 10, 2002

World Cup: Korea vs. USA



Soccer: World Cup: Korea vs. USA

WOW, what a battle. The U.S. team that looked so strong against Portugal played more defensively this game and struggled, allowing Korea too much possession and fending off attack after attack. Right from the beginning the U.S. was defending, but they picked strategic times to attack, and mid-way through the first half a through-ball by O'Brien to Mathis and he finished it off perfectly, absolutely deadly finishing. But after gaining the lead, the Americans sat back too much. Late in the first half, a mass of bodies in the U.S. box lead to a bizarre penalty call against Jeff Agoos. Unbelievably, goalkeeper Brad Friedel makes the save (the first penalty kick stopped in this year's competition). The U.S. take the lead into the second half, but it's more of the same relentless, high-pressure attack with the American's frantically defending. Brad made a number of key saves, as did the U.S. defense, but eventually the pressure was too much and something blew, with a Korean player getting a header into the goal. After that it was all-out war. Somehow the U.S. kept the Koreans out, and finally managed a few offensives runs that helped relieve the pressure at the back and almost scoring. Donovan had the Americans' best chance when a beautiful ball dropped to him in the box, but surprisingly he didn't get a shot off, hesitating and allowing the keeper to snare it. At least the U.S. held on for the draw, an excellent result. A loss would have been bad. Overall, the U.S. looked tired, especially in the second half, and one gets the feeling the overworked defenders never realized the incredible pressure one gets in a World Cup. They gave their all in the first game and had little left for this one. It was also disheartening to see the Koreans encouraged by the massive crowd of screaming fans make run after run after run. Still, the U.S. held on, played good enough, Brad had a phenomenal game (no doubt his price tag just went up), Mathis did what he gets paid to do (score goals), and everyone had a decent game. The match against Poland on Friday will decide the group -- a tie should get the U.S. through, but a win would have them top the group. South Korea will not fare so well against Portugal and should be eliminated. Great stuff! Final: 1-1.

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Sunday, June 9, 2002

World Cup: Mexico vs. Ecuador



Soccer: World Cup: Mexico vs. Ecuador

Good game, though Ecuador faded at times and allowed Mexico to dominate. Ecuador drew first blood scoring just four minutes in, but Mexico equalized twenty minutes later. In the second half, Mexico took the lead, and though Ecuador played hard in the final ten minutes or so, they couldn't score again. Final: 2-1 Mexico.

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Thursday, June 13, 2002

World Cup: Mexico vs. Italy



Soccer: World Cup: Mexico vs. Italy

Wild game. Italy had an early goal called back for offside (again), and the day seemed to be darkening for the former champs. Mexico played well and got the first goal (fantastic header), and now the Italians were in a deep hole. With ten minutes to go Del Piero was inserted and minutes later he scored the tying goal. Great stuff. (Totti, who I really like, is just not having a good Cup. He had a shot at an open goal and sent it wide. Ridiculous.) The final minutes of the match were hilarious as the players had heard of Ecuador's win which meant both these teams were through, and so the players just stood and passed the ball around for the four minutes of extra time. The ref finally blew the whistle to put an end to the silliness. Final: 1-1.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2002

World Cup: Nigeria vs. England



Soccer: World Cup: Nigeria vs. England

Boring game. Started out well, but by the second half it was obvious England was content with a draw. Afraid of Nigeria's speedy counter-attacks, they never committed forward. Both teams had a few chances, but overall there just wasn't much happening. Nigeria goes home with a point, so they gained some respect, and England advances with a draw. Final: 0-0.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2002

World Cup: Paraguay vs. Slovenia



Soccer: World Cup: Paraguay vs. Slovenia

What is it about the World Cup that brings out the best of teams? Paraguay has been talking a lot, but so far their performance in the competition has been poor. But they needed a big win here (as well as help from Spain). Unfortunately, things immediately went downhill. In the first half, one of their defenders was sent off for his second yellow. Then Slovenia had the gall to score a goal! That gave Slovenia confidence and rattled Paraguay, who started playing even worse, with even leader Chilavert fumbling the ball. But Slovenia's attack went to their heads and they forgot about defense, sending too many forward. Substitute Jorge Campos capitalized, scoring twice for Paraguay. Chilavert almost made history scoring on a free kick, but the shot was blocked by the Slovenian keeper. Then Slovia had a player red carded for a bad tackle and the sides were even. Paraguay countered with a great goal from the top of the box to give them the two goal lead they needed to advance. Incredible. With Spain defeating South Africa, Paraguay go to the second round! Gutsy performance from a team a man down. Final: 3-1 Paraguay.

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Sunday, June 2, 2002

World Cup: Paraguay vs. South Africa



Soccer: World Cup: Paraguay vs. South Africa

Terrific game. I figured this one would be a boring defensive affair, but it was anything but. Paraguay showed a lot of attacking prowess, scoring twice early, with one goal an amazing free kick that I could see a hundred times and still not quite believe. Incredible. But in the second half Paraguay fell apart. South Africa pressed hard and they crumbled, as a shot led to an own goal. It still looked like they had it won but South Africa didn't give up, and the referee gave them their chance in the final minute of play when Paraguay's substitute keeper fouled in the box for a penalty kick. It was converted and the score was tied. Wow. Final: 2-2.

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Friday, June 14, 2002

World Cup: Poland vs. USA



Soccer: World Cup: Poland vs. USA

What can I say? The U.S. has done well tactically so far in the Cup, but they severely misjudged this Polish team. The U.S. did not play well, but this could have gone differently. First mistake: pre-announcing their strategy. I heard on ESPN before the game how the U.S. was playing to attack heavily in the first few minutes and get an early goal or two, and the Poles were prepared for that. With nothing to lose, they brilliantly pushed on the counter-attack, and with the U.S. all focusing on attack, we forgot to lock the barn door. Three minutes in, the U.S. is down a goal. That's when fate dealt us a bad hand. We equalized a minute later on a great goal by Landon Donovan. But the Chinese referee (not to stir up controversy, but who's idea was it to have an Asian ref for this game where a loss by the U.S. could help the South Koreans advance?) immediately cancelled the goal, saying Donovan fouled his opponent. On replay it's clear there was no foul: it was a legal shoulder-to-shoulder challenge. Yes, sometimes refs do call those around the box (especially if against a keeper), but this wasn't against the keeper, and it was the slight Donovan who outmuscled his opponent to get to the ball and he deserved the goal. If that had happened, the U.S. team could have settled down. Gave up an early goal, equalized. Back to business. Instead, the refs' callback set the U.S. team on edge, and before we could recover, we gave up another goal at back! That's right, we're two goals down just give minutes in! Exactly the opposite of the strategy we planned coming into the game. Poland is an organized side, and though they'd had a terrible Cup so far, losing two games and not even scoring a goal, they played a good strategy against the U.S. After the two early goals they didn't just sit back and defend like so many teams, but continued their deadly counter-attacks, keeping the U.S. from moving too many men forward. Poland kept enough men back that the U.S., while we had chances, could never quite get the goal we needed. In the second half it was more of the same, except the U.S. was more desperate. We pushed forward and twice got caught on the counter. One sequence game up a goal, and the other gave up a penalty kick. Fortunately, Superman (a.k.a. American keeper Brad Friedel), blocked his second penalty of the tournament (no one else has stopped even one). Wow! With just minutes left, Landon Donovan scored a terrific goal on a volley sneaking in from the left -- but it was too little too late. They needed to get Donovan much more involved. I hope Bruce Arena puts Donovan up front for the next game. Speaking of the next game, despite the embarrassing loss, there is a next game for the United States. Our suddenly good friends South Korea saved us by beating Portugal, eliminating them from the tournament. That means the U.S. advances as the second-place team! That's good for us because Korea gets to face Italy, while we get Mexico. We're familiar with arch-rivals Mexico and that should be an awesome game. If the U.S. brings their A-game, we should be able to defeat them, but they might bring their A+ game, so we'll see. Final: 3-1 Poland.

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Friday, June 14, 2002

World Cup: Portugal vs. Korea



Soccer: World Cup: Portugal vs. Korea

Wild game, especially if you knew what was going on in the U.S.-Poland game. With the U.S. losing badly, our best chance to advance was a loss by Portugal in this game, and they seemed to be doing everything to help make that possible. A horrible tackled from behind got a player ejected in the first half, and a second yellow (deserved) got another ejected early in the second half. So now it was nine men for Portugal fighting eleven Koreans. Stupidly, the Portugese sat back. Aware that the U.S. was losing and that a draw would advance Portugal, they didn't attack as much as they should have. Suddenly, South Korea scored! It was a great goal where the Korean player did a cool move to pop the ball with his right foot over to his left, fooling the defender, and putting the ball on goal with his left. The quickness of the move and shot befuddled the keeper who let it slip through his fingers into the net. Suddenly Portugal was losing and had to fight. They put on a lot of pressure, but amazingly, the Koreans, who only needed a draw, played wonderfully, defending well and blocking every Portugese chance. In the last few minutes the U.S. hearts were in our mouths as we watch Figo's free kick miss by inches, another player contrive to miss with just the keeper to beat, and the Korean keeper make a fantastic up-close save in the dying seconds to keep Portugal off the board. Wow. The result means the Koreans finish top their group and advance, keeping alive the World Cup record of every host nation advancing (co-host Japan also advanced), and the U.S. sneak in on their well-earned four points. Portugal goes home in misery, their only solace that other favorites France and Argentina were also eliminated. Final: 1-0 South Korea.

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Monday, June 10, 2002

World Cup: Portugal vs. Poland



Soccer: World Cup: Portugal vs. Poland

Portugal started off slower than I liked, taking fifteen minutes to score the first goal and not adding to that tally until late in the second half. Finally they got their act together and scored a bunch of goals (including missing a bunch of chances), but for a while there I was worried. Pauletta got a hat trick, which was impressive, and this gives Portugal lots of momentum for their final game with South Korea, which is a must win if Portugal wants to advance. Poland is out, but playing purely for pride against the U.S., they could be tough. Final: 4-0 Portugal.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2002

World Cup: Russia vs. Tunisia



Soccer: World Cup: Russia vs. Tunisia

Okay game. Tunisia looked very interesting -- a nice aggressive style -- but their finishing was incredibly poor, with guys putting point-blank chances well wide of the goal. Russia should have dominated easily, but they struggled a bit, and didn't look especially sharp. They finally got their goals, the first on a mistake by Tunisia's keeper, and the second on a penalty kick, but if it wasn't for either of those one wonders if they would have scored. Karpin had a terrific game, though. Final: 2-0 Russia.

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Thursday, June 6, 2002

World Cup: Senegal vs. Denmark



Soccer: World Cup: Senegal vs. Denmark

What a strange game! In the first half, Senegal played badly, completely differently from their first game against France. Here they struggled to get the ball through the mid-field and tried long ball instead and it just didn't work. Sixteen minutes is, an idiotic tackle in the box gave the Danes a penalty kick, and they took the early lead. Denmark controlled the first half, keeping the pace leisurely, but even they had some odd defensive errors, giving the ball away and almost trying to give Senegal a chance. In the second half, a completely different Senegal team emerged from the locker room. They came out storming, counter-attacking with speed that terrified the Danish defense. About ten minutes in the Senegalese put in a goal that I consider the best of the tournament so far. Most "best goals" are the kind where the final shot is spectacular. This one was all about teamwork. Starting in their own penalty area, the Senegalese put together a series of brilliant passes and runs through the Danish defense that left them standing scratching their heads. In just a few seconds the ball was in the Denmark penalty area as a clever feed to Diao left him one-on-one with the keeper, and he easily put it into the far corner of the goal to equalize. Wow, what a sequence! Just mesmorizing, jaw-dropping stuff! But after that the Danes regrouped and though Senegal controlled most of the play and had several chances, they couldn't take the lead. With about ten minutes to go, the goal scorer, Diao, did a foolish and incredibly dangerous tackle where he came in with his studs up into the shin of a Danish player, the kind of challenge that could easily snap a shin in half if the foot was planted. The stupid part was he did this literally right in front of the ref who had no hesitation in pulling out the imediate red card. So Diao's World Cup is probably over -- he'll be suspended for the next game, and most likely FIFA will extend that, considering the severity of the foul. Just not smart. Playing with ten men, Senegal was never threatened by Denmark, but they never quite got that last challenge on goal they should have, pressing the older, tired Danes late in the game. So they ended up with a draw in a game they should have won. The two teams are now tied at the top of the group with 4 points each, but Denmark faces an uphill battle against France next, while Senegal tackles Uruguay. Assuming France wins both of their games, just a point from the Uruguay game would put Senegal through, but if France don't win, goal difference could be significant in this group -- Senegal needs to score a lot of goals. Final: 1-1.

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Saturday, June 22, 2002

World Cup: Senegal vs. Turkey



Soccer: World Cup: Senegal vs. Turkey

Strange game. It started off wildly with both teams playing aggressively. Senegal had the upper hand in the attack, while Turkey controlled the ball better. Senegal's defending was occasionally desperate, but they didn't let in a goal. Unfortunately, they couldn't quite score either. In the second half, it was obvious both teams were tiring. Senegal's best advantage is their speed, but they allowed Turkey to set the pace, and they weren't as quick as in the first half. Their lackluster play was extremely disappointing. Both teams seemed okay with going to Golden Goal in extra time -- perhaps Senegal figured they could recreate their magic goal against Sweden. If so, their plan backfired, for Turkey scored and advance and Senegal is out. Very sad, as I was truly hoping for a terrific Senegal-Brazil match-up. Final: 1-0 Turkey.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2002

World Cup: Senegal vs. Uruguay



Soccer: World Cup: Senegal vs. Uruguay

What a great game! Senegal started a little slow, but after being awarded an early penalty kick (on a phantom call), got energized and tore into Uruguay with two great goals by Diop. The first was a poke from ten yards up, roofed into the upper net, and the second was a cheeky poach from the top of the box that hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced inside. Leading 3-0 going into the have, the Senegalese became overconfident, and one minute into the second half they gave up a goal. A penalty kick brought Uruguay closer, and with just minutes left, Uruguay had a great strike by Diego Forlan who scored on a blast from far out. Unbelievably, the score was now tied! Injury time was a hectic battle, but Uruguay couldn't claim the winner. The result advances Senegal, but only as the second team in their group, meaning they'll have to face the top team from the Argentina-England group. If they could have held on to the big lead, they would have finished first. But in truth it makes little difference -- anyone from the "group of death" is going to be tough competition. The bottom line: former champions Uruguay go home and first-time participants Senegal advance. Final: 3-3.

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Saturday, June 8, 2002

World Cup: South Africa vs. Slovenia



Soccer: World Cup: South Africa vs. Slovenia

Rather silly game. Slovenia never looked dangerous, and South Africa seemed to be their own worst enemy, clumsily defeating their own best chances. South Africa did put in a good goal, but Slovenia was just feeble, and South Africa should have done considerably better against them. But still, this was South Africa's first-ever World Cup win, so it is historic. But they're still a weak team. Final: 1-0 South Africa.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2002

World Cup: South Korea vs. Germany



Soccer: World Cup: South Korea vs. Germany

Excellent game. Both sides attacked relentlessly from the start, with the speedy work rate of the Koreans matching the tough physique of the Germans for most of the match. Unfortunately for South Korea, Oliver Kahn was a wall in goal, and Michel Ballock came through with another game-winning goal for his side. Unfortunately for Germany, Ballock's second yellow means he'll miss the final on Sunday. Will Germany be able to suceed without him? Final: 1-0 Germany.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2002

World Cup: South Korea vs. Italy



Soccer: World Cup: South Korea vs. Italy

Wow! Start off with a massive crowd of screaming South Korean fans creating a deafening cauldron of sound, add a penalty kick to South Korea just minutes in, throw in a great Buffon save on the kick to keep the score at zeros, and you know this is going to be a great game. Ten minutes later, and Vieri scores on a header off a corner kick -- gotta mark those Italians on the set plays, folks! So in minutes the tide turns from Italy potentially down to leading. And people don't think soccer's exciting? What other sport offers such drama?

After that, South Korea seemed to lose something. Italy controlled play, defended easily, and Korea was frustrated. But they didn't give up. Late in the game Italy began to tire, but the Koreans pressed on. Not quite as intensely as in previous games -- the tremendous efforts of their three previous games finally taking their toll -- but with a lot of courage and fight. Suddenly, out of nowhere, came the equalizer. A missed clearance in the penalty area opened the tiniest sliver of an opening and a Korean player toed the loose ball into the back of the net. The tie sent the game into sudden death overtime. Both sides had chances, but after fifteen minutes there was still no goal. Then Totti was called for diving in the box and given his second yellow. It was a poor call -- there was contact, just not a foul. But Totti was out. Then, in the second half of overtime, a shocker: Ahn, who'd missed the Korean penalty in the opening minutes, got a header on goal and scored! Golden goal! Korean advances. Italy is knocked out. Wow. Four out of the eight quarterfinalists are first timers. Final: 2-1 South Korea.

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Saturday, June 22, 2002

World Cup: South Korea vs. Spain



Soccer: World Cup: South Korea vs. Spain

Terrific battle, though Korea got some questionable calls as Spain had a couple goals cancelled. Perhaps that's home field advantage. At any rate, Spain couldn't score, and that's what's most important. The game went into overtime and then penalty kicks. Spain seemed confident that their keeper would rule the penalty area, but instead it was the other way around: Korea's keeper Lee stopped a shot, while Korea scored all five shots. That puts Korea through and Spain go home, again disappointed. Final: 0-0 (Korea advance 5-3 on penalty kicks).

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Saturday, June 29, 2002

World Cup: South Korea vs. Turkey



Soccer: World Cup: South Korea vs. Turkey

Third place games are usually boring, but this one was awesome. I figured Korea would dominate, being the home team, but they started off thinking this was a practice. Just ten seconds in Turkey scored. It was none other than Hakan Sukur, their top scorer, who hadn't found the net all tournament! As a couple Koreans played pass with the ball in their own half, Sukur's partner stole the ball with a flick to Hakan. He pounced and finished before anyone could react. South Korea was knocked down, but not out: they came back minutes later with a terrific free kick that was just impossible to stop. But then a mistake at the back let in Turkey for another goal. Minutes later, Ilhan chipped the keeper for a three-goal lead. Amazingly, South Korea gave up three goals in this game when before they'd only given up three goals in the entire tournament! In the second half, South Korea turned on the pressure something fierce -- Turkey's keeper Rustu made a half-million saves! He finally allowed one in on a terrific long bomb that was deflected, but unfortunately for South Korea that was two minutes into extra time. Still, a great showing by both teams, both celebrating their best World Cup ever. Final: 3-2 Turkey.

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Friday, June 7, 2002

World Cup: Spain vs. Paraguay



Movie: World Cup: Spain vs. Paraguay

Rather boring game. I guess I'm just not a fan of Spain. Their play has a feel of struggle to it, as though even the most basic moves are a challenge. There are flashes of brilliance, and individually they have some great skill, but as a team though just don't gel. Paraguay's goal-keeper, Chilavert, is one of the most colorful characters in soccer, and his arrogant comments against Spain came back to haunt him in this game. Paraguay played poorly. They got a goal, but it was a gift from Spain when a defender put it into his own net! Spain came back with goals in the second half, however. A snap header gave Chilavert no chance, and then Chilavert himself made a ridiculous blunder, flailing hopelessly at a cross, leaving the goal wide open behind him. When he didn't get the ball, it was child's play for Spain to finish it off. Later in the game Spain was awarded a penalty kick, and Chilavert wasn't even close to stopping it. Technically, Paraguay is still alive, but I doubt they'll make it. Spain's way overrated, and though they've got two wins to advance, they won't make it past the second round. Final: 3-1 Spain.

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Sunday, June 2, 2002

World Cup: Spain vs. Solvenia



Soccer: World Cup: Spain vs. Solvenia

I found this game boring. I don't know: I'm just not a fan of Spain. Occasionally they play brilliantly, but most of the time they just let you down. Solvenia was great in Euro 2000, but and they showed some interesting stuff here, but in the end the ref screwed everything up. Spain was up by two goals when Solvenia gained one back late, and they should have been awarded a penalty kick. Instead, the ref waved play on. But seconds later he awards a penalty kick to Spain on a non-foul at the edge of the Slovenia box. So what should have been a deserved 2-2 tie became a 3-1 Spanish win. Lame. Final: 3-1 Spain.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2002

World Cup: Spain vs. South Africa



Soccer: World Cup: Spain vs. South Africa

Good game. Unfortunately for South Africa, they didn't quite get the result they wanted. Spain didn't seem that concerned about the result (having already qualified), but the motivation of an extra day's rest by finishing first did the trick as they pressed hard to win. South Africa came back twice to tie, but in the end Raul put Spain ahead. That result, combined with Paraguay's two-goal win, sends South Africa home (the teams finished even on points and goal difference, but Paraguay scored six goals in group play while South Africa only scored five). Final: 3-2 Spain.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2002

World Cup: Sweden vs. Argentina



Soccer: World Cup: Sweden vs. Argentina

Awesome game. In the first half it was all Argentina with 65% possession. But Sweden's defense was impressive: organized and confident, they repelled attack after attack. It helped that Argentina, while they had tons of shots, couldn't put hardly any on frame, but contrived to miss high and wide. Then Sweden went ahead on an incredible free kick goal. Argentina fought back, but it looked like they were done (a draw would not advance them). Finally, in the 88th minute, Argentina was awarded a penalty kick for a foul in the box. Ortega's feeble penalty was blocked, but Crespo pounced on the rebound and put it away to level the score. But the lifeline came too late. Minutes later the whistle blew and the "Group of Death" had claimed another victim: Argentina. Wow! Favorites to win the whole lobster, they're now on their way home. Amazing. England and Sweden advance, Nigeria and Argentina go home unhappy. Final: 1-1.

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Friday, June 7, 2002

World Cup: Sweden vs. Nigeria



Soccer: World Cup: Sweden vs. Nigeria

Great game. The Nigerians went all out with nine forwards and a "forget" defense attitude. Great for fans of scoring. Unfortunately, not so great for winning soccer games. Especially when the finishing's weak. Though Sweden looked strong from the start, Nigeria scored first with a great header goal. The seven-flip celebration was one of the highlights of the Cup so far. But that was the last of the Nigerian celebrations. Sweden scored on a terrific bit of play by Larsson, who took a through-ball deep into the Nigerian penalty box, deked a couple defenders, and slotted the ball into the goal. Later, a Nigerian take-down gave Sweden a penalty kick, which Larsson brilliantly scored. Nigeria gave it a good run and played well, but this is the "group of death" -- and they're the first victims. Final: 2-1 Sweden.

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Saturday, June 15, 2002

World Cup: Tunisia vs. Japan



Soccer: World Cup: Tunisia vs. Japan

Good game. Japan was pretty much through, but they wanted to win because if they finish second in the group they would face Brazil in the "Round of 16." So they fought, and Tunisia continued their weak play (though they had a few good minutes in this match). Japan scored twice, including Nakata finally got his first goal of the tournament, and that was nice to see. He headed it through the legs of the keeper! Not really contest, but fun. Final: 2-0 Japan.

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Thursday, June 13, 2002

World Cup: Turkey vs. China



Soccer: World Cup: Turkey vs. China

I liked Turkey a lot in their earlier games, but they didn't display much in this game. Though they won solidly, they made it look like a struggle. Very odd. Interesting game, though. Poor China really wanted to at least score a goal so they could exit the tournament with something, but failed. Final: 3-0 Turkey.

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Saturday, June 1, 2002

World Cup: Uruguay vs. Denmark



Soccer: World Cup: Uruguay vs. Denmark

Great game, with lots of end-to-end action, passionate, aggressive play, and a deserved win by Denmark. Denmark's goals were textbook, arising from team play; the goal from Uruguay was pure inspiration on a long blast by their leftback. Great stuff. Final: 2-1 Denmark.

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Friday, June 21, 2002

World Cup: USA vs. Germany



Soccer: World Cup: USA vs. Germany

What a great game! While the result didn't go our way, the Americans played well and gained a huge amount of international respect. It's probably hard for non-soccer fans to understand how losing a game gets you respect, but we really pushed the Germans and until the final whistle sounded, they were very nervous we'd squeak by. My only regret is that we didn't at least score, but losing 1-0 to Germany in a World Cup quarterfinal round is nothing to be ashamed of. The U.S. had most of the attack and the possession. In the first half, that was our choice and the Germans didn't like it but couldn't do anything about it. In the second half, it was a combination of the Germans letting us have the ball and us being desperate to score. We outshot them considerably, but that's meaningless compared to the only stat that matters: the score. Still, all the Americans played well and you could see the Germans were surprised and impressed. Unlike their talk before the game, and unlike other teams, the Germans did take us seriously. They played a strategically sound match, getting a goal and then setting back and attacking us on the counters. Good job. But congrats to the U.S. team. Remember, this wasn't supposed to be the team that did well at the World Cup. That's not supposed to come for a couple more World Cups. By that time the Landon Donovans will be our senior players and we'll have ranks of new youngsters lining up. The combination will be potent: our World Cup results proves Major League Soccer is an excellent development environment. Players that do well in MLS will do well in the world. That's good for MLS and for U.S. soccer. Final: 1-0 Germany.

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Monday, June 17, 2002

World Cup: USA vs. Mexico



Soccer: World Cup: USA vs. Mexico

Unfreakingbelievable! What's not shocking is that the U.S. won this game, but the way they dominated. Sure, Mexico had chances, but in general the Americans totally frustrated them. You could see that in the way they tackled and tried to bait the U.S. The U.S. didn't let the Mexicans play their game, but also played their own counter-attacking game that kept Mexico on edge. Claudio Reyna, who've I heavily criticized in the past for not playing well for the U.S., had a standout game. He played wide instead of in the middle, and that was a much better role for him. It opened up the mid-field, forcing the American players to pass the ball well, and it gave us a controlling pressence along the side. He started the first goal, getting past his man on the right and running impressively quickly up the side. He crossed it to Josh Wolff in the penalty area who had two men on him, so it didn't seem like a threat. But Josh instantly fed the ball behind him -- a brilliant pass that found an on-rushing Brian McBride who side-footed it into the goal. The early goal boosted the confidence of the U.S., who'd given up two early goals to Poland in their last game, and shocked the Mexicans. (Afterward, the Mexican coach said the Americans "Got lucky." Give me a break. It was a fantastic goal generated out of team play.) The Mexicans tried hard but couldn't equalize, and late in the game Eddie Lewis broke away on the left. Running at a full sprint he crossed the ball into the Mexican penalty area. Landon Donovan outran the Mexican defense and perfectly headed the ball home. With a two-goal lead, the Americans could smell victory. The Mexicans fouled hard and often, finally getting their captain sent off on a brutal tackle against Cobie Jones. But it was not Mexico's day: the U.S. wins and advances to the quarter-finals for the first time ever! (Yeah, technically we made in 1930, but there was no "Round of 16" back then, so I don't count it.)

A couple words about the missed penalty call. On replay, it looked like American John O'Brien played a ball with his hand but the ref didn't give the Mexicans a penalty. The idiotic ESPN commentators should made a meal out of that, harping on it non-stop. Look, non-calls and missed calls are a part of life. Get over it. If you're going to talk about that call, you must give equal time to the Landon Donovan goal against Poland that was taken away, and I've hardly heard anyone mention that. That was a key turning point in the Poland game for me, giving the U.S. a triple-whammy: giving up a goal, scoring a goal that didn't count, and giving up a second goal. The non-penalty in the Mexico game, while it could have change momentum by tying the score, might not of: Friedel's saved two penalties already, so Mexico is deluding themselves to think the penalty was a gimmie goal. Anyway, things like that happen. The U.S. had bad calls against it earlier in the Cup, and benefited in this case. Things balance out in the end.

So the U.S. plays Germany on Friday. In a way, I'd felt that reaching the quarters is good enough for the U.S. -- no sense being greedy. But that was until I heard the comment by "The Kaiser," Franz Beckenbauer, the legendary German. He said that Germany has "no hard matches until the Semi-finals." Okay, Beck -- get ready for the USA. We love being the underdog. We're gonna kick your butt all the way home! Final: 2-0 USA!

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Wednesday, June 5, 2002

World Cup: USA vs. Portugal



Soccer: World Cup: USA vs. Portugal

I'll be honest: I didn't expect the U.S. to win this game. I figured we might be able to take the lead at some point, and perhaps finish with a draw. When I saw Bruce Arena's line-up I was pleased. He went with a nice mix of youth and experience, and though I was disappointed that Clint Mathis wasn't playing, I was still optimistic. (Claudia Reyna I feel is over-rated and it wasn't such a big deal that he couldn't play. In a few years Donovan can take over his role and do it a hundred times better.) Anyway, I was getting so excited about this match, dying to see how the U.S. team would play, that I stayed up and watched the match live! Sure, it was a 2 a.m. kickoff, but who needs sleep when you're rooting for your national team?

The U.S. team did me proud! Starting things off aggressively, the Americans looked sharp from the kickoff, putting pressure on Portugal, who looked a little surprised. We quickly won a corner kick, and when Stewart put in a great ball, Brian McBride almost scored on a strong header. The Portugese keeper blocked the shot, but the rebound fell to the feet of John O'Brien, and he calmly slotted it home giving the U.S. the lead in just the fourth minute of play! Twenty-five minutes later, Landon Donovan's cross is deflected off the back of the head of a defender. The deflection wrong-footed the keeper who dived wildly but couldn't stop the goal. It was ruled an own goal for reasons I don't understand: own goals should be when the opponent does something deliberately, but in this case the Portugese player knew nothing about it. So Landon gets credit in my book, but not officially. In the thirty-sixth minute of play, Donovan was again involved, quickly sending the ball up the right side to a streaking Tony Sanneh. Tony placed a pin-point cross over into the goal mouth which McBride caught with a diving header to give the U.S. an amazing three goal lead! That's the first time the U.S. has scored three goals in a World Cup match since 1930, and the first time we've ever done it in one half. Minutes later, unfortunately, Portugual got a goal back. On a corner kick the attacker beat Jeff Agoos to a head ball, but his shot was rejected by O'Brien. Unfortunately, his wimpy clearance gave the ball right back to the same player and he finished off the second chance. In the second half, Portugal put on gobs of pressure, and though the U.S. struggled at times, we managed to keep our lead until about twenty minutes left when Agoos' attempt to clear a wicked cross deflected the ball into the U.S. net. An own goal both directions -- justice? While the last twenty minutes were nail-biting, fortunately we managed to hold on for the win -- a win most are calling a bigger upset then the Senegal-France shocker. I was especially impressed with how the U.S. played the final few minutes. The players were obviously exhausted, barely able to kick the ball, yet they got the ball into Portugal's side of the field and wouldn't let it out! Great time-wasting, and it obviously frustrated Portugal.

This was just a fantastic game. It wasn't that Portugal played badly -- the U.S. just played well. Figo was very good, very dangerous, but it's possible he wasn't up to his world class standards (he's rumored to be nursing an injury, though he played the whole game). I think this was a case of the Portugal under-estimating the Americans. I was most impressed by the U.S. attack: I greatly favor offense over defense and I felt that the speed and skill of DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan was what won the game for us. Some great mid-field play by O'Brien and the others kept the ball well, allowing them to feed the ball forward giving some great chances for the forwards, and that kept Portugal from moving too many men up in the attack. The defenders fought hard and worked hard, and though Goose had a couple critical mistakes, he actually had a good game overall and saved a few plays. Even his own goal would have resulted in a goal anyway if he hadn't blocked the shot (there were two Portugese players waiting for the ball on the other side of Goose). In short, this was a great team victory, with every U.S. player putting on a great show, playing with heart (Pope had an excellent game), and working very hard. Now they just have to do it again against South Korea! Final: 3-2 USA!

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Friday, November 19, 1999

The World is Not Enough



Movie: The World is Not Enough (1999)
Writer(s): Bruce Feirstein and Michael France
Director(s): Michael Apted

Unlike the lackluster last Bond outing (1997's Tomorrow Never Dies), this James Bond is excellent. The opening action sequence -- a speedboat chase the previews made seem routine -- is actually exciting. Other action sequences aren't as good (the skiing one is quite routine), but there are many of them, and most are mercifully quick (though a few drag on too long). What's most unusual about this Bond is that the villan isn't revealed until later in the movie. This is a good villian, too. As any Bond fanatic knows, a Bond film is only as good as its villan. The plot itself is so complicated is drags the story a bit. In fact, there were a number of key plot points that occurred before the movie started, meaning we're told about them retroactively, a poor method for revealing critical details. But since this is a Bond film, plot is almost irrelevant -- you know it's a diabolical scheme to rule the world and Bond's going to stop it, and in the end, that's all that matters. The fun is in the journey, and watching the suave Bond wiggle his way out of impossible deathtraps with a martini in his hand and narry a spot on his tuxedo. Acting? Well, Bond films aren't acting powerhouses, but Pierce Brosnan does an excellent job, bringing a bit of depth and complexity to his Bond. He's better than the plot, in most cases. What I like about Brosnan is that he has a ruggedness about him that fits Bond exactly, he's a decent actor, and he can deliver witty lines without turning the whole movie into cornball. This film brings back the Bond tradition of lots of innuendo and dreadful puns, but it doesn't turn into a cartoon Bond like many of the 70's films. As for the Bond women, Sophia Marceau was excellent, but I can't say the same for poor Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist. Let's just say she'd make an excellent store mannequin. She was fine eye candy... as long she didn't speak. Overall, an excellent follow-up to Goldeneye.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

World Without End



Book: World Without End
Writer(s): Ken Follett

This is a "sequel" to Follett's classic Pillars of the Earth. That one is an epic that covers a century or so of the building of a cathedral in 14th century England. This one is set about a hundred years later in the same town and features new characters, so it's not a traditional sequel, but it's an amazing story. Like the first book, it's hugely long. I bought it in audiobook format and I've been listening to it for months every time I drive. It's like six eight-hour parts! But the story is so good I wanted to drive just to listen, and sometimes I just parked in my garage and listened for a while. Follett is a master novelist and it shows with this masterwork as he artfully crafts wonderful characters from childhood to death, and he tortures us with disasters and challenges that face our heros and heroines, and he often lets bad people "win" in ways that are just like real life. The plot is slightly rambling as it's merely the extended happenings of several people throughout their lives, but there are a few core characters and events. Basically there's a genius builder whose ambition is to build the tallest building in England, but politics and greed seem to hamper his every progress as he struggles to get morons to heed his wise advice. The love of his life is Carice, the daughter of the town's most prominent businessman, and she's seemingly perfect to follow in her father's footsteps and lead the town to glory, but when her plans threaten the wrong people, they attempt to kill her, and she's forced into a nunnery to escape. There she discovers a new calling: medicine, as she ends up running a hospital and writing an acclaimed book on cures that actually work instead of ridiculous traditions like bleeding that weaken patients. Of course she's constantly set back in her work as she's a woman in a man's world and isn't "trained" as a doctor.

Throughout this story we are inside a wonderful ancient world that's both astonishingly primitive and yet similar to our own. I found this educational and revealing as in a book of this magnitude and detail, you get a real feel of what live in the 14th century must have been like. There are so many tiny things we forget out in our modern lives, things we take for granted, like how our cities operate, the ability to print books and distribute information, and common medical knowledge -- today even a child knows about germs and how diseases are spread. Then there's more expert knowledge such as medieval building techniques: how do you build a spire or a stone bridge across a flowing river? Such engineering challenges with only primitive tools to work with is amazing and makes the accomplishments of our ancient bretheren that much more impressive.

I loved this book.

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Sunday, February 25, 2001

Worthington Cup Final: Liverpool v. Birmingham City



Soccer: Worthington Cup Final: Liverpool v. Birmingham City

Terrific cup tie. This was the final, so a winner would be determined one way or another. No replays. Liverpool started things off well, and everything looked good when Robbie Fowler put in a top-notch goal. His keeper, Vesterveld, put in a long ball which Heskey nodded down, right to Fowler, who delivered a brilliant shot. Three touches and the ball was in the back of the net! Birmingham held on, fighting for every scrape, and the game was filled with lots of near chances and close shots. But it looked like it was to be Liverpool's day. Then, with two minutes of injury time expired, the ref suddenly called a penalty kick against Liverpool. Disaster! Birmingham's main penalty kick taker was injured on the play and off the field, so Purse stepped and finished beautifully, as though there was no pressure at all. That sent the game into 30 minutes of overtime. During the overtime play there were some critical saves, and one foul that should have been another penalty kick for Birmingham, but the ref didn't call that one (it was far more blatant than the first). Finally, the game went to penalty kicks. The first kicker for Birmingham missed his, putting them behind, but several Liverpool kickers later, one missed, and the two teams were even again. They went to a sixth kick, and Liverpool scored, but then, sadly, Birmingham's player missed, meaning they lost the game. It was hard for the player -- he'd done excellent during the game. So Liverpool win their first hardware in years, and take home the Worthington Cup!

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Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Worthington Cup: Blackburn vs. West Ham



Soccer: Worthington Cup: Blackburn vs. West Ham

After all the setup that this clash would prove to be competitive (West Ham has been knocked out of the Worthington Cup by a lower-division club five times in the last eight years), West Ham dominated. After an uneventful first half, Davor Sukor scored in the 67th minute on West Ham's first corner kick of the game. That opened the game a bit, but when Man of the Match Paulo Di Canio was brought down in the box in the 83rd minute, you knew Blackburn was dead. Di Canio's first shot scored, but the ref made him retake it for some reason. The second kick was blocked, but the rebound went right to Di Canio and he didn't miss. And that's the way she ended, 2-0 West Ham.

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Thursday, November 2, 2000

Worthington Cup: Chelsea vs. Liverpool



Soccer: Worthington Cup: Chelsea vs. Liverpool

Terrific game! Incredible, skilled soccer on both sides. Lots of 10-12 touch passing combinations leading to offensive play. It was the best I've seen Liverpool play in a long time. Liverpool started things off with a goal from the left side from Murphy, who put across a grounder from a tight angle that managed to go between the defenders running on and beating the keeper at the far post. Chelsea didn't answer until late in the half with a easy goal from the tiny Italian Zola (one of my favorite players). Combination play and a run up the left side left Zola alone in the box, and a perfect cross meant he got a chance to head it into the goal standing about two feet from the goal line! Zola doesn't miss chances like that. In the second half the good play continued, but the defenses of both teams played just as good. Late in the game things got a bit chippy, especially when the game went into overtime (where we saw a flurry of yellow cards). But it was Robbie Fowler who put in the winner: he received the ball with his right foot, knocking it down to his left, and one-timed a low straight-as-an-arrow shot just inside the post. And that was it! Chelsea's knocked out of the Worthington Cup, Liverpool goes on, 2-1.

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Thursday, December 14, 2000

Worthington Cup: Fulham at Liverpool



Soccer: Worthington Cup: Fulham at Liverpool

Though Fulham's an English first division club, I've become a fan because they have an American, Eddie Lewis, on their team. Eddie used to play for my local team, the San Jose Earthquakes in MLS, and they are expected to be promoted to the Premiere League next season. But I was disappointed that Eddie was nowhere to be seen in this game. I don't know why; perhaps he's out injured. Anyway, this is the type of game you'd expect Liverpool to dominate easily, but Fulham's been in great form of late, and neither team could penetrate the other's defense. Sadly, the game went into overtime and Fulham's impressive play weakened when super substitute and England international Michael Owen scored on the day before his 21st birthday. That was followed by goals from Smicer and Nick Barmby. Final: 3-0 Liverpool (in overtime).

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Tuesday, November 28, 2000

Worthington Cup: Manchester United vs. Sunderland



Soccer: Worthington Cup: Manchester United vs. Sunderland

Terrific game, though Man. U. didn't field their full squad. Sunderland played with heart. United's Dwight Yorke put them ahead in the first half, but in the second half he was sent off for a bad tackle. Sunderland scored minutes into the second half, and with the game tied, the intensity rose. Manchester should have gotten a penalty kick but the ref didn't call it. The game went into 30 minutes of overtime. Phillips, who was having a great game, though he couldn't score, was brought down in United's box for a penalty kick. Phillips scored, and United never recovered. Final: 2-1 Sunderland.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Worthington Cup: Sunderland at Crystal Palace



Soccer: Worthington Cup: Sunderland at Crystal Palace

One thing that's interesting about open cups is that teams from different divisions get the chance to compete against each other. Sunderland's a Premiere League team, while Palace is in the First Division. That didn't mean the game wasn't competitive, though. The first half was a bit boring, but the second half kicked off with a goal from Palace. Sunderland's keeper did a great blunder, kicking the ball straight to a Palace player. He dribbled in alone, drew the keeper away from the goal, and slid the ball to a team who put it into the open net. A shocking mistake! But less than a minute later, Sunderland took control with a terrific series of passes in their opponent's box. The defender had Sunderland's player marked, but missed the ball, allowing him a point blank shot (which he scored). You'd have thought Sunderland would gain momentum from that, but it was all Palace, with a series of post shots and near chances. Finally, late in the game, Palace took it with a great goal from Morrison. He dribbled in on the right wing, fooled a defender, and put in a neat slider to the far corner of the net. Nice. Final: 2-1 Crystal Palace, who advance to the semi-finals.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Wrestler



Movie: The Wrestler
Director(s): Darren Aronofsky

I'm a big Aronofsky fan and was really curious about this film. It's amazing in many ways, but ultimately I felt the story was a too mundane for this to be a great work of art. It's the story of a wrestler struggling to hold on to a career that was at its peak 20 years earlier. Health problems force him to retire and face life as a non-wrestler for the first time, and we watch as he struggles with relationships and work. It's an interesting environment, the whole wrestling scene, and Mickey Rourke's performance (as well as Marisa Tomei's) is fantastic. Both are completely believable as beautiful, broken people, scarred by life. Their relationship is unlike anything we've seen before and is fascinating. Unfortunately, the alienated daughter relationship is predictable and familiar, and while that doesn't diminish its power, it does weaken the overall story which felt anticlimactic. The ending, however, was terrific: not what I expected. It was not satisfying, but it was appropriate, and the more I think about it the more I like it. Overall, this is a film to see for the performances and for the unusual environment (pro-wrestling) more than the fairly ordinary story. Recommended.

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Sunday, August 15, 2004

A Wrinkle in Time



Movie: A Wrinkle in Time
Writer(s): Madeline L'Engle

I recorded this off TV a while back but hadn't watched it yet. It was surprisingly good. I first read the book when I was a kid and though I liked it, didn't really understand it that well. Even with this version the "battle" is all mental and abstract, and while it's compellingly done, it's not as concrete as say, the plots of the Harry Potter books. It reminded me a lot of my own "Traveler" graphic novel. I wonder if I had some sort of subconscious memory of this when I wrote it?

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Sunday, May 6, 2001

WUSA: Bay Area Cyberrays at Philadelphia



Soccer: WUSA: Bay Area Cyberrays at Philadelphia

Wow, what a crazy game. Goals are finally flooding the WUSA. I kept switching between this match and the New York Power at North Carolina one (which finished 3-1 New York). This game was tied 1-1 at the half, but in the second half Bay Area stepped forward with a goal, but then lost it, giving up two goals to lose the game 3-2. Fun, and it's good to see scoring. Final: 3-2 Philadelphia.

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Sunday, June 3, 2001

WUSA: Bay Area Cyberrays at San Diego Spirit



Soccer: WUSA: Bay Area Cyberrays at San Diego Spirit

Okay game, though a little boring. Late in the second half substitute Little, playing only her third game of the season, cooly finished a one-on-one with the keeper and gave Bay Area the win.

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Saturday, August 11, 2001

WUSA: New York at D.C.



Soccer: WUSA: New York at D.C.

Good game, with D.C. trying to act as spoiler to New York's playoff hopes. But a goal from Elspeth late in the first half, followed by a nice finish by league-leading scorer Tiffany Millbret gave New York a decisive victory and ended San Diego's playoff dreams. Final: 2-0 New York.

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Saturday, April 21, 2001

WUSA: New York Power at Atlanta Beat



Soccer: WUSA: New York Power at Atlanta Beat

Impressive debut of the new American women's soccer league. Apparently games are shown every Saturday at 9 a.m. Pacific on cable channel TNT with a WUSA highlight show airing at 8 a.m. on the Discovery channel. This game was New York, with Tiffeny Milbrett, against Atlanta, with Cindy Parlow and China's Sun-Wen. The game was pretty good. No goals, but some good action, good defending, a great crowd (over 20,000), and lots of enthusiasm. For the start of a new league, it's definitely impressive. We'll have to see how things continue. Final: 0-0.

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Sunday, April 29, 2001

WUSA: Washington at Carolina



Soccer: WUSA: Washington at Carolina

Excellent game, very impressive. It started off with a great goal from Canadian international Burtini on a header off a corner to put the home team up. Just a few minutes later, Mia Hamm was almost put out of the game by a rough tackle: it looked like she might be seriously injured. She was off on the sideline for a good ten minutes while they checked her out, but finally decided her knee was okay. Back in the game, her presence made an immediate difference, but Washington couldn't score. Things were looking grim for the visitors until very late in the game when Hamm took a quick free kick from near the halfway line and sent in a gorgeous through ball for Pretinha, who ran onto it beautifully and scored. With the just eight minutes left, the game got intense. Finally, in the 90th minute, with just seconds left, Mia Hamm took a free kick from outside the box and beat the keeper for the game winner! Final: 2-1 Washington.

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Sunday, May 27, 2001

WUSA: Washington Freedom at New York Power



Soccer: WUSA: Washington Freedom at New York Power

Good game! Bai Jie finished nicely just three minutes in to put Washington up, and it took New York forever to get the equalizer. Late in the game Aarones was put in for her first appearance of the season, and seconds later the six-foot giant used her heat to finish a great cross from Sara Whelan. It looked like that was it, but then a stunner: in injury time the Freedom had a corner kick which Mia Hamm took. Her cross went through the legs of Bai Jie who screened the keeper and into the goal! Final: 2-1 Washington.

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Saturday, April 19, 2003

WUSA: Washington Freedom at San Jose Cyberrays



Soccer: WUSA: Washington Freedom at San Jose Cyberrays

I had never been to a WUSA game (women's soccer) before, but finally the Earthquakes got their act together and organized a doubleheader with the two local teams. This was a great game to witness, too, since San Jose was taking on the Freedom, with star Mia Hamm. During the second half she was on the left side, right in front of where I was sitting, so I got to see a lot of her. She was excellent (her goal was a penalty kick). The game itself was ho-hum. It had a few moments, but Washington got the early lead on a PK, then scored a second not long after. After that they could safely defend and rely on rapid counter-attacks to keep San Jose at bay. The Cyberrays tried hard, especially near the end, but couldn't make much progress at scoring. Final: 2-0 Washington.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Wyrms



Book: Wyrms
Writer(s): Orson Scott Card

What a fantastic book! I thought this was a newer novel of Card's because I hadn't heard of it, but apparently it's older, from the late 1980s, and got lost amongst his more popular works. However, this is one of his best. It is set thousands of years in the future on a planet colonized by humans 7,000 years earlier. The humans and local species have interbred and evolved into several new species, each of which are interesting. A key part of the novel is that the indigenous species can communicate through telepathy while humans cannot (though humans are susceptible to its influence). The main human character is a young girl, the seventh seventh seventh daughter (basically 300 generations down) who has been prophesied to be either the savior or destroyer of the world, so various groups want her dead or alive. Her mission is to kill the Unwyrm, the original indigenous creature of the planet, who is calling her telepathically to mate with her: he has waited 7,000 years for the human DNA to reach a point where perfect merging is possible. She does not want this and wants to kill him, for he seeks the end of humanity, but she is powerless to resist his telepathic call. That is the core conflict, and it sets up a fascinating world of humans, creatures, politics, and religion, and Card brilliantly allows amazing discussions on the nature of good and evil, why a good person who does bad things can still be good, and so on. The novel is action-adventure -- the girl has been trained as an assassin by her father -- and thus it's a wonderful blend of philosophical discussion and action. I listened to the audiobook version but this is one I will probably buy in book form to reread and have on my shelf. It's that good.

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Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Wyrven Mystery



Movie: The Wyrven Mystery

This is an older Naomi Watts movie. It's a period piece about an orphan girl who is raised by a man, who, when she comes of age, is interested in her romantically. She is horrified and runs off with a younger mate, and they are married and have a child. But then tragedy: her husband becomes ill and dies, and the baby, left with neighbors to protect him from the disease, also dies. But then some things don't fit and the woman starts to suspect that her baby was murdered, though she doesn't know why. The truth is a fascinating twist, but it takes way, way, way too long to get there, and the film is muddled by silly "scary" things like dark moody music, strange characters, cryptic words, and curtains blowing in the night. Stripped to its bones the story has some merit, but all the fluff weakens the story instead of making it more dramatic or interesting.

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