World Cup Check-In: Group Stages

A mixed bag, to be sure. In terms of the teams I was really pulling for, the USA did exactly as I predicted in its first two matches…but it was heartbreaking. Even though I expected those results, the USMNT truly deserved a win against Portugal. There are a million tactical analyses by experts that know way more than I do, so I won’t digress too much. But Michael Bradley, who improved on his awful performance against Ghana, got greedy and made a massive mistake. There were other factors there, from the clock having gone over 5 minutes of injury time for no apparent reason to an (unfortunately) slow-to-react defense. Ronaldo made a killer cross for Eden’s amazing header…but it could and should have been prevented by a million things. There are a lot of ways the US can go through…let’s just hope the stars align.

England had literally the worst possible World Cup. Many, including myself, expected this to be the best England team in years. Hell, they started the first two matches with 5 Liverpool players! But Hodgson, as expected, got his tactics wrong in the first two matches against opponents that shouldn’t have been too much better than England on paper. I feel bad for Steven Gerrard more than anything. A guy who always plays with his heart, for Liverpool or England, and he deserved more.

Uruguay…well it is what it is. Could be my only team in the next round. Suarez’s performance was incredible against England. But his actions against Italy were insanely stupid. I don’t agree with the witch hunt being performed on him, but he shouldn’t put himself in those situations. In the end, I hope he A. stays at Liverpool, B. gets some help, C. takes responsibility and recognizes the idiocy. Either way, hope Uruguay do well with or without him.

Other notes: Costa Rica, WOW. A bunch of has-beens and no-names have taken the Cup by storm. Gonna be the neutrals favorite for the next round, but I think the honeymoon will end soon. Colombia has done so well without Falcao, which I can’t believe! Very impressed by what they’ve done too. They could be the real dark horses. Belgium have looked shaky in their matches so far, their draw will determine how far they go. I can’t believe Spain bombed so dramatically, gotta be the surprise of the tournament. France, Brazil, Germany (sorta), Netherlands, and Chile have to be the favorites at this point. We’ll see!

Last WC note: check out the New Republic’s excellent page of “moment of the match” hand-drawn illustrations. Very cool. Their World Cup coverage in general has been quality.

E-mail Newsletter Power Rankings 6/23

So the World Cup has been killing any diligent intentions to be productive lately, and I’ve had to force myself to squeeze in some work between the last match of the day and the time my wife gets home. She has a new job, so I don’t have to drive her about town. Gives me more time in the day so now I have to get used to actually working in the late afternoon.

Sidenote: just had this published, my first at my new gig at Contently. I’ve got a ton of stuff waiting to be edited from there, though. And finishing up a piece for when they’re ready.

But for now…….E-MAIL NEWSLETTER POWER RANKINGS!!!!!

3. Austin Kleon with his weekly newsletter, the latest being filled with some exceptional, diverse links. Austin is one of my favorite writers, probably more for the things he reads/writes/watches and blogs about than his actual writing, though I do have his two latest works and enjoy his blackout poems (there are always a few in the newsletter, which is nice). His newsletter is the best of his Tumblr, but honestly you should just follow that too because it kicks ass.

2. Kevin Nguyen‘s newsletter is another that only comes around once a week or so, and it’s often more of a mini-essay plus a few links, as opposed to just a bunch of links like some. This is a good thing, I think, because it means that he recognizes what he is able to do on a weekly basis without running out of things too quickly. This week he talks about the struggle between a nifty use of Yo that also spoils World Cup matches for him. And he’s always, ALWAYS, got a sweet GIF at the end.

1. Rusty Foster’s Today in Tabs makes the list again this week, and honestly it was his Star Wars Episode II quote that sent it over the edge. HATERS GONNA HATE. But for real, there’s been a buttload of things happening in the internet media/publishing/etc world lately and I give a little crap but not enough to take time away from watching the World Cup to figure out the deal. Rusty’s newsletter gives the slightest of details that are enough to know what’s happening without getting bogged down by every little piece of info. And he’s always sarcastic about pretty much all of it, so even better.

 

I’d like to start my own newsletter soon, but honestly I just don’t think I’m at the point where anyone would subscribe. Soon.

My World Cup Allegiances, 2014 Edition

With any sport, there’s really not a ton of purpose in watching if you don’t have some sort of stake. Whether it’s hating one team so much you root for a team you might not care about or even dislike a little, or falling in love with the style of a team early in the tournament and hoping they progress in order to keep watching. My main allegiances aren’t really swayed, but the bottom of the list is pretty much up for grabs, year to year. In 2010, for example, I was all for Spain winning the whole thing because at that point, two of their players were current Liverpool players and two had recently left the club. I’ll always root for Xabi Alonso, and Pepe Reina is sort of still a Liverpool player…but otherwise I’m just tired of their dominance. With Barcelona (whose players form the core of the Spain squad) on the decline recently and all but one of their strikers (who is semi-injured) being pretty MEH, I don’t see them winning it all this time.

So here’s where I stand with the teams going into today’s tournament:

1. USA. Was there any doubt? This is MURICA and if you’re a soccer fan and you live here and DON’T support the USMNT, I just feel sorry for you. This is one of the few times that America is the plucky underdog begging for scraps at the table. America isn’t the world police at the World Cup, and its testosterone-fueled NASCAR-and-NFL machofest means absolutely nothing in the beautiful game. The country is starting to really get behind the team and realize how big of a deal it is, and how great it is to be a part of the greatest surge in the federation’s history. That said, we aren’t winning. Klinsmann is right, and the people criticizing him for it are just delusional. But yes, #IBELIEVE, and I’ll be cheering them on wildly from Monday until their final kick in Brazil.

2. England. For one thing, I get really annoyed when people get up in arms about supporting England. The opposite of the horrible piece in the Wall Street Journal that I won’t link to and give the trolls their satisfaction, I embrace American soccer’s acceptance of English & European traditions, in part because I have so much stake in the England national team anyway. I have a jersey signed by the 2010 World Cup squad, and own like 4 other England jerseys. But the top reason–Steven Gerrard. My favorite player in history and probably Liverpool’s best. He captains England with the passion that he captains Liverpool with. But wait–there’s more! Not only does Stevie G play for England, so do FIVE other current Liverpool players: Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling, Glen Johnson, and new signing Rickie Lambert. 4/6 are highly likely to start against Italy this weekend, probably 5/6. I know a ton about the team as I read English sports pages on a daily basis, and in the end, some of these players deserve to be the team that finally relives 1966.

3. Uruguay. We’re falling down the hardcore-ness list, as I’m not going to be passionately supporting the team, but if they’re the only ones left out of these top 3, then I’m all for them. Luis Suarez is the best on earth right now, and when he is on top of his game, he is absolutely magnificent to watch. He’s got a bit of a rep for his antics lately, and I’d bet they show his handball against Ghana in 2010 about twenty times per day that Uruguay plays. But he’s a Liverpool player as of now, and I will be more than happy if he lifts the trophy.

Teams I will enjoy watching and root for if it’s not against the three above:

  • Argentina, solely because I think Messi needs to win a World Cup so we can end the debate about him being the greatest in history. Pele and Maradona won’t stop saying that they’re better than Messi, and I find that ridiculous. And yes, all three are better than Neymar. But also, Argentina has a SICK front line that should be a joy to watch.
  • Belgium. CLICHE ALERT: because they are dark horses. They’ve secretly amassed some of the greatest young players in the world right now, which is pretty awesome. Hazard, Dembele, Mirallas, Mertens, De Bruyne, Lukaku, Courtois, Kompany…the list goes on. I don’t necessarily love any of these players, but they are all talented and could do some damage if firing on all cylinders. Simon Mignolet is Liverpool’s keeper..but he is pretty much second behind Courtois. Honestly don’t know if Courtois is better but the hype around him and the fact he played a Champions League final recently have cemented his spot.

Teams I will hate and root against with every fiber of my being:

  • Mexico. Dirty players, whiny players, and just all-around arrogant jerks that wouldn’t have made it to the World Cup without the divine benevolence of San Zusi. They act like they are the best in the world but have never really made it that far in the WC. I hate them, a lot.
  • Ghana. Jerky jerk jerkfaces. I hope we destroy them on Monday and that they don’t make it out of the group stage.

My prediction for the winners? Brazil. Only sane prediction you can make at this point. Group stages will reveal who’s really up for it though.

How to Watch the World Cup

To being what’s hopefully going to be a consistent blogging topic this next month, I’d like to kick off World Cup season with some ways of showing how you can watch the World Cup from anywhere in the world, especially the USA.

1. Straight up cable TV. The matches are being shown on ESPN, ESPN2, and (luckily for you over-the-air only people) ABC. Set your DVR or just park your butt in front of the TV.

2. Go to a bar. Pretty much every major city in America (and many minor cities) have a soccer fan presence of some sort, and there’s likely to be a watching party within a half hour of you. Do some googling and you’ll find something.

3. WatchESPN app. This is my preferred method, as I get to, uh, borrow my parents’ cable account since we don’t have anything of the sort. Not that we’re too poor or too isolated, we just watch everything through Netflix, Hulu, etc. But my method is either straight up watching on my iPad Mini or iPhone 5S, or plugging one of those devices into my TV through a sweet little device I picked up that connects anything with a lightning port to HDMI to mirror whatever’s on the screen. It works pretty well and I just pray my wi-fi doesn’t crap out during a crucial moment.

4. Sketchy-ass stream. This is what I did for years watching the Premier League (before NBC became the greatest thing for US soccer fans ever) and it can really suck, BUT it is free. My personal favorite for finding sites is Football Streaming and First Row Sports but they are definitely not reliable and ever so slightly illegal. You gotta do what ya gotta do.

 

Stay tuned for more World Cup stuff soon!

E-mail Newsletter Power Rankings: 6/05/14

Trying to revamp my blog here, I’ve finally broken down and self-hosted a website. Still obviously using WordPress, but I’ve yet to be happy with a theme/look yet. So this looks pretty unfinished, and some of the pages are blank or broken. MY APOLOGIES. I WILL FIX SOON.

A series I want to start doing here is rooted in the seemingly endless supply of newsletters I have subscribed to. Is it 2004? WTF?! I feel like I went into a coma and woke up subscribed to all of these newsletters with a million links to add to the million links I’ve fave’d on Twitter and saved to Pocket. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?

But anyway, the series is going to be a Power Ranking (of course it’s supposed to be capitalized) of the newsletters I have received in the past week-ish. If you have suggestions for more newsletters, I’m gonna be a little masochistic and ask you to send them my way so they can be included in the E-MAIL NEWSLETTER POWER RANKINGS

I’m gonna start with a top 3 and maybe occasionally a mention of one for being really awful. Don’t think I have one of those right now.

3. Today in Tabs by Rusty Foster: Rusty’s newsletters are great, but they can be overwhelming. The links lately have been good, but some days I just laugh at the snarky tweets he embeds and skip around until something catches my eye. WE DON’T ALL HAVE A MILLION HOURS AND/OR TABS, RUSTY. But if you like loads of sarcasm and a newsletter that often takes the form of a giant subtweet, get on the RustyTab train.

2. NextDraft by Dave Pell: I’ll admit, the logo for this newsletter screams Nickelback-meets-Gibson but I let it slide because Dave puts together some awesome links. I forgot what it was a week or two ago, but Dave uncovered some awesome article that people were fawning over for at least half a day. But today, he had some excellent World Cup-related links and summed up a few of the “stories of the day” that I had seen referenced but hadn’t taken the time to research. So he gets second place today for helping me be lazy. Bravo!

1. 5 Intriguing Things by Alexis Madrigal: AM is one of my favorite journalists working today, and I swear the dude knows everything about everything. He goes from writing tech-filled articles to penning these huge philosophical treatises on cybernetics and terminators or something. But his 5 Intriguing Things is always the most concise (and somehow, always in my inbox at the buttcrack of dawn) and easy-to-read newsletter out there. But today’s newsletter about balloons was way more interesting than 5 stories about balloons should be.

 

So there you go. The first power rankings DONE. Now to make this website not look like a hot pile of garbage.

Best World Cup Promo Videos Of All Time

The Brazil World Cup 2014 is on the horizon, and boy am I ready for it. I still stand by my stance that club football is better overall, especially the English Premier League…but the magic of the World Cup is just amazing. It does something to people. It brings countries together. Even in the US, which is crawling out of its soccer sarlacc, gets excited about the World Cup. As a soccer fanatic 24/7, I get people asking me about it, their desire to learn fills my heart. It helps ease all the bitching I get the rest of the time.

SO I decided that I would make a short list of my favorite soccer commercials that have been released for or around the time of a World Cup. Not all specifically advertise for it, but it’s obvious why it was released.

ESPN has been on its A game with soccer commercials the past few years. This one says it all and has a cheeky dig at England for being notoriously awful at penalty shootouts.

Another ESPN gem from 2010 that I love. I’ve had like 4 people send it to me this year so I guess ESPN is running it again.

Nike’s newest video is solid. Theirs have always been so great. Not my favorite but still quite entertaining.

Full length version of a classic 2010 Nike commercial. This one is very, very good.

My favorite of all time. Directed by Guy Richie, so that obviously helped. But the first-person feel of it still feels unique and has been copied too many times to count.

BONUS: the English FA made a spoof of the above video to encourage fat Englishmen to go outside and kick a ball. Hilarious.

Not directly World Cup related but it’s always funny to see how awful footballers are at acting. David James looks like he’s been told to act natural and has no idea what that means.

The epitome of how the World Cup *feels* to, well, the world. And for me it doesn’t hurt that it’s narrated by Bono with a U2 song in the background.

 

 

The Trials of Pro Bono, No-Budget Filmmaking

Since moving to Seattle, I’ve done a solid amount of things to encourage my chances of finding work–full-time, part-time, or freelance. It’s not easy, and I’ve taken it on myself to do at least 75% of the cooking, cleaning, dog-taking-out, etc. in our household. I only bring in a few hundred bucks a month through some internet work, so I try to contribute elsewhere.

But I digress: I started going to networking events at a nearby co-working space called Office Junction, which is still relatively new and on the lookout for new members. In exchange for free membership (i.e. use of their space & internet) I started up pre-production (well, basically wrote out notes and a rough shot list) for a little commercial they could post in hope of getting at least some local attention. 

So we set up a little shoot wherein I took a couple days to get some footage from three different locations, using a Canon 7d, a shop light, and a crudely constructed “steadicam” mount using some pipe, a block of wood, and a barbell weight. It turned out remarkably well, but the lack of funding definitely showed. Even when humor is part of the goal of a video, the level of professionalism dictates how people feel about it. 

SOOOO I’ve spent a good few months (trips and other projects drew the process out longer) editing, re-editing, color correcting (slash LEARNING about color correction), recording voiceover, re-recording voiceover with someone that doesn’t have a weird voice, and then finally to changing half of the thing up because the space moved locations. 

All this being said, I worked pretty hard on this and I at least think I did my best considering my lack of budget and literally being a one-man team. I think I’m proud of it…but it’s hard to say if we’re being honest. I do know that the logistics of filmmaking are not my forte, I can see why film & tv are collaborative arts. I’m an idea & writing guy, not a production guy.

And now, with what I consider a great idea for a humorous webseries project, I’m struggling to find ways to make it happen. I don’t have a huge network of such people here in Seattle, and I don’t want to try and export it (even if I could) to LA where I won’t get to control the process. 

Stay tuned.

Screw the finish line

I’m not sure if it’s an individual quirk or part of a larger issue, but I’ve noticed lately that I’m not the greatest finisher in the world. Nope, stop thinking dirty thoughts. Not what I meant.

I’m no Fernando Torres but it’s still something that weighs on me: when I don’t finish a book, I feel like I’m not giving it a chance. Like I’m not giving the author a chance to reel me back in. But in the atmosphere of distraction we live in, it’s hard to force myself to read something that I just don’t feel like reading. Some books, like Infinite Jest, I know I’ll eventually read. Others, like my last cast-aside victim, Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers, I’m not sure if I will. Now it’s nothing against Ms. Kushner or her book, she is a wonderful writer and much of the book was just lovely…but there were so many stretches that I just did not care about and I struggled to want to read further just to slog through more boring dinner parties filled with doublespeak about 1970s anarchists and their supposed art. It was just plain boring. The last two books I read before that drew me in completely, but for different reasons.

Philipp Meyer’s The Son was a true epic masterpiece. Interweaving familial tales that brought to mind some of my own stories, as well as my Texas heritage. I was very interested in the characters and the story. There were very few boring parts of that book.

After that, I blew through the very funny How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely. Hely was a writer on The Office and other such funny things, so I was bound to enjoy it. It’s a great semi-satire of the book world today, and will both infuriate you (because you know it has happened before) and make you think long and hard about wanting to be a novelist. But most writers will see themselves in it, as well as thinly-veiled caricatures of famous writers. I highly recommend that.

So I finished those. I loved them. The Flamethrowers just didn’t really grab me, as much as I kind of cringe at the term. Now, to start Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. I loved, loved, LOVED the Secret History. So let’s see how it goes.

I’m the same with writing. Though the writing is more out of laziness, I think. Ending a story is so much harder than starting one. I have a thousand story premises in my head and in the Notes app on my iPhone. But rarely am i able to take any through to completion. My great ideas flow and I’ll set up a great story, then about three or four pages in I start to slow down and think about where I should go with it. I might get another three or four pages in before I just give up. It sucks. But I’m trying to force myself to do it.

I at least have a creative project to keep me feeling less useless lately. Shooting a super low budget commercial for a local office space here in West Seattle, Office Junction. It’s a great little community of freelancers and entrepreneurs, and they are letting me work in the coworking space in exchange for writing/producing/directing this little video. I’ll post it when it’s done!

Seattle & Emerald City Social

photoSeattle is where I’m at. I got married and now we are here. It’s been months since I’ve done anything up in this blog and that is my bad. I need to keep myself sharper by keeping this blog up. And of course to meet new readers!

The lowdown:

  • We live in West Seattle, an awesome community that has its own identity, but still minutes from pretty much anything in Seattle proper. We are loving it.
  • We have a little dog name Daphne. She is crazy, sweet, and currently dealing with the skin condition from hell. Not really, it’s just a pain for us and she has the cone of shame most of the time.
  • I’ve had a hellish time applying for jobs lately, nothing has happened for me. It sucks, but I’m hoping for something to work out.
  • Therefore, I’m trying my hand at freelance social media consulting. I started a little business, calling it Emerald City Social. That’s one of the nicknames for Seattle. If you or someone you know is a small business owner or startup entrepreneur, hit me up!
  • I’ve become a pretty big fan of the Seattle Sounders, Seattle’s MLS team. Living in Dallas, nobody cared about FC Dallas and the only match ever went to was because it was a friendly against Inter Milan. In LA, we went to a couple Galaxy games, which were fun but didn’t have much of an atmosphere. I only really enjoyed them because I saw Beckham, Donovan, and Keane play. Beckham scored one of his greatest all time goals in front of us on my birthday in 2012. That was EPIC. But anyway, the thing about the Sounders is…people get INTO IT. Our first match was against their big rivals, the Portland Timbers. Nearly 70,000 people and it was LOUD. It feels like a European soccer atmosphere, and even if the team isn’t doing great, the community’s loyalty and fervor makes it just amazing. I couldn’t get into another MLS team like this. It’s so much fun.

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Other things:

  • currently reading: Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers. Solid plot so far. Writing gets a little self-indulgent sometimes and I have to roll my eyes. But it’s a solid story and pretty well told thus far. I’d say I recommend it.
  • currently obsessed with: Brooklyn Nine-Nine on FOX. If you’re not watching this show, you don’t know good comedy.
  • currently wanting to read: Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. Her book The Secret History is one of my absolute favorites. Read it in a “Greek Tradition” class in college and just loved it.