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Archive for August, 2008

David Sedaris: When You Are Engulfed in Flames

Not that funny.  Not that poignant.  Unabashedly self-indulgent.  I am a big fan of David Sedaris and his absurd sense of humor.  His latest collection of essays in When You Are Engulfed in Flames, however, was a disappointment.  There were a few laugh-out-loud moments and plenty of disbelief induced head-shaking moments, but the vast majority of the book is spent detailing Sedaris’s mildly interesting idiosyncracies.  Whereas past essays focused on his bizarre family and peculiar upbringing, this book relays unrelatable stories of a rich, famous, first-class flying author who lives an insular life in some of the world’s most desirable cities.  Hardly a page passes without Sedaris mentioning his drug-riddled past.  It becomes quite tiresome; the constant referencing of the past reveals an insecurity in the present.    Maybe naming the spiders who live outside his Normandy home and following their exploits is as rewarding as it sounds.

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USA 1 Guatemala 0, 2010 World Cup Qualifier

Win pretty, win ugly.  Just win.  At the end of tonight’s opening match of the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying ESPN commentator Glenn Davis aptly shouted: “The US has won a streetfight in Guatemala!”  In matches against the US, Guatemala plays just about the ugliest brand of soccer.  Foul, dive, cheap shot.  Not necessarily in that order.  The US was not able to possess the ball well, nor was it able to effectively counterattack.  The US simply grinded out a win on the strength of captain Carlos Bocanegra’s header.  Bocanegra broke free thanks to a butt pick from Brian Ching and was able to guide an expertly placed DaMarcus Beasley corner kick in the lower right corner of the goal.  Before the goal the highlights/lowlights were two ejections:  Steven Cherundolo was sent off on two dubious cautions; Guatemalan defender Cabrera was given a straight red for absolutely T-boning Eddie Lewis, leaving him dazed and bloodied.  Lewis could not continue.

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USA 1 Nigeria 2, 2008 Olympic Men’s Football

AP Photo

It’s official: German referees hate USA Soccer.  Marcus Merk effectively eliminated the USA from the 2006 World Cup by calling a ridiculous penalty against Oguchi Onyewu.  Today it was Wolfgang Starg’s turn.  He dealt a devastating blow to the USA’s chances of advancing by ejecting USA defender Michael Orozco for a petulent elbow in the 3rd minute of the final game of the first round in which the USA needed a draw.  Not all the blame can be placed on Starg’s shoulders.  It was a foolish risk for Orozco to take: there was absolutely no reason for the cheap shot even if it was a rather impish blow.  The Nigerian player who received the blow did not help.  He did what most soccer players would do: fall to the ground and pretend like he was shot.

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USA 2 Netherlands 2, 2008 Olympic Men’s Football

© Brad Smith/isiphotos.com

After falling behind 1-0 and playing poorly for the first 30 minutes, the USA took it to the heavily favored Dutch team that has won the last two U21 European championships before settling for a 2-2 draw.  For 20 minutes it appeared that the USA would be in the quarterfinals.  The Netherlands was unable to mount a meaningful attack after goals in the 64th and 72nd minutes by Sacha Kljestan and Jozy Altidore.  It was only a rash challenge by Stuart Holden and a rather fortunate free kick that earned Holland a point at the death.  As seen in the picture above Silbon was the beneficiary of a poor decision by the USA wall to jump as he struck a free kick from 22 yards; Silbon’s worm-burner found its way into the back of the net, under the wall and between goalkeeper Brad Guzan and defender Michael Parkhurst.  No wall inside 30 yards should jump.  If a player can get the ball up and down with enough pace to beat the goalkeeper, he deserves the goal.  Any player can hit a low ball.  The risk far outweighs the benefit, risk of a worm-burner rolling in, risk of a hand-ball, risk of a deflected goal.  Guzan should’ve communicated this message to his wall.  Or the coaches.  Or McBride.  Someone.  The last minute goal took the tarnish off a wonderful USA performance and left a bitter taste in the mouth of players and fans alike.

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USA 1 Japan 0, 2008 Olympic Men’s Football

© Brad Smith/isiphotos.com

In the opening match of the 2008 Olympic Men’s football tournament, the USA beat Japan on the strength of a 47th minute Stuart Holden goal.  Right back Marvell Wynne was instrumental in the build-up to the goal; from his right fullback position he pressed into the attack and delivered a cross that could only be deflected into the path of the on-rushing Holden who powered the ball into the back of the net.  The match was rather uneven with bogged down midfield play and persistent fouling from both sides.  The heat and humidity in Beijing was responsible for the dull moments as much as the players and tactics.  Both sides typically like to play up-tempo. constant pressure soccer but the heat was no match for their collective capacity.

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Michael Pollan: The Omnivore’s Dilemma

Excluding the first and last 50 pages The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a fascinating look at how Americans’ turn energy into food and how we choose to prepare, package and consume that food.  The book is broken into three parts: industrial, pastoral and personal.  Each section goes to great lengths to holistically analyze how food is produced in the specified paradigm.  Author Michael Pollan spends time working at different farms in the first two sections before being transformed into a Jewish Hemingway as he attempts to hunt and gather his own food in heroic fashion.  Pollan’s effort, diligence and attention to detail cannot be faulted.  There are sections that could certainly be more concise and moments when the book becomes more about the author than the subject, but on the whole Pollan does an excellent job of presenting all sides and allowing the reader to make his own conclusions.

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Hope for Guatemala

Yesterday I returned from a week-long missions trip to Guatemala.  I went with a group from my church to serve Hope for Guatemala/Esperanza para Guatemala, an organization started by Guatemalan Jose Armas that works to bring life and hope to one of the most dangerous zones in Guatemala City by physically and spiritually nourishing its people, especially its children.  We were supported financially and prayerfully by family, friends, neighbors and our church family.  The team joked that ‘what happens in Guate stays in Guate’ so you will be spared some of the more sordid details of our trip.  Flexibilidad was the theme of the week.  From the first team meeting in April, the team of 11 was told to expect the unexpected and that encouragement continued after our arrival from the Hope staff.

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