Monday, July 31, 2006

Reviews in bullet points

  • The Dreamers - An awful, awful movie. It's nowhere near as stylish or poignant as it thinks it is. Laughably pretentious, contrived and self-important. I'd give it zero stars if I could. That said, Eva Green buck ass nekkid. 3 stars.

  • Little Brother @ Fort Greene Park, Wednesday, July 26 - Short but sweet, fairly enjoyable show. I'm thinking this is the first non-Roots hip hop show I've been to in over a year. Not bad for a free show, not bad at all.

    I didn't realize backpackers still carried backpacks.
  • Howl's Moving Castle - I could say this for every Hayao Miyazaki movie, but beautiful imagery, lovable cast of supporting characters and great storytelling that falls apart about an hour and twenty minutes in, followed by a long-winded and incomprehensible resolution. 3.25 stars.

  • Bloc Party @ McCarren Park Pool, Saturday, July 29 - I don't care what the commenters on Brooklyn Vegan say, they're (mostly) assholes. Bloc Party is a fantastic live act. And I really, really like McCarren as a concert venue. Decent sightlines despite the size, good sound. Still, BP's second album can't come out soon enough - as much as I like Silent Alarm, I've basically heard the same setlist three times. I'm just glad I didn't need beer or was in a rush to get out.

  • DJ Shadow - The Outsider - This is the one DJ Shadow album that most DJ Shadow fans will hate, I imagine. I won't go into too much detail, this being a bulletpoint review and all, and Weiss covered it last week, but I will give you this chat transcript:
    spinachdip: "I gotta say though, I am not digging Shadow's new material at all"
    iason: "havent heard it"
    i: "i do trust your musical taste though"
    i: "so im kinda skeptical now since you said it"
    s: "I set trends, motherfucker"
    s: "You should give it a listen though"
    s: "it's really, really different"
    i: "im kinda scared"
    i: "like the jump RJD2 made from Dead Ringer to Since We Last Spoke?"
    i: "cause that caught me off guard"
    s: "this one's drastic"
    s: "it's nothing like Endtroducing..."
    i: "oh no"
    s: "I can send it to you"
    i: "no no no no non on onon onono"
    s: "it's that bay area hyphy shit"
    i: "not that shit"
    i: "does that mean ill be dancing like a fucking moron if i put it on?"
    Well, yeah. In Shadow's defense, Phonte from Little Brother has a half decent guest spot and the line, "I gotta stop fucking with these hoes off of MySpace". Indeed.

  • The Roots - Game Theory
    I want to like this a lot. And I do like a couple of tracks on there, and both "Don't Feel Right" and "Long Time" are solid if not spectacular tracks. I don't hate it the way I did The Tipping Point, and considering I don't think I'll ever like another Roots album like I do Illadelph Halflife, I won't complain too loudly.

  • Milwaukee Bucks sending Jamaal Magloire for Steve Blake, Brian Skinner and Ha Seung-Jin
    This is a trade that really helps both teams. Combined with the earlier trade with Toronto, the Bucks essentially traded Magloire for Charlie Villanueva - younger and more athletic, better complement to Andrew Bogut - and TJ Ford for Steve Blake - not as spectacular but more reliable (and remember, no one could stop Jay Williams like Blake, well, except maybe a lamp post). Portland got bigger and only gave up Blake, who had to go because of the logjam at the point guard position anyway. And any time you can get Ha Seung-Jin in the news is worthy of celebration.

  • The opening paragraph from mimi in NY's latest post
    That's some good hate. Oh, and yeah, the rest of the post too. That's why she's New York's favorite blogger/stripper.
  • Thursday, July 27, 2006

    It's not just your identity, it's also your burrito

    Earlier this week, I found myself hungry and on St. Mark's, and as I often do, I reflexively headed for Chipotle. I ordered my usual - soft chicken tacos, lettuce, cheese, possibly guacomole and no sour cream - and my heart grew with excitement while my stomach expanded in anticipation. The tacos and I would be one in mere minutes.

    As the soon-to-be-mine tacos took their place inside the red plastic basket, I realized I had not had enough cash to pay for my non-homoerotic meat injection. So like any good fiscally irresponsible American, I whipped out my American Express Blue Student card and put that summabitch on plastic.

    The receipt inched out of the cash register and I held my hand out so the cashier could hand me a pen. Except the pen never came. I stood, confused.

    "Where do I sign?" I asked.
    "You don't have to sign anything," she responded, "You're good to go (isn't that a Taco Bell slogan?)."
    "Are you sure?" I asked again.

    Like that, the excitement for the impending arrival of tacos in my stomach dipped not insignificantly.

    If the intent was to save me time by skipping a step, then it backfired. Because however many seconds I saved by not signing a receipt was offset by the time I stood there confused and bewildered. Plus, as superfluous a process as Chipotle might consider signing a receipt to be (and to be honest, it's not hard to forge my signature - it's just a scribble and you can hardly read it), it's an important one - it's like you know you and a girl are headed to the bedroom, but you have to at least spend a few token seconds making out in the living room. It's just not right to skip a time honored tradition.

    Of course, the more important issue was the security. Someone, anyone could steal my wallet and order burritos, tacos and burrito bols to their heart's content. How could Chipotle, the most heavenly of national fast food chains, allow this?

    You might argue that there's only so much money you can spend at Chipotle. One could order a burrito, chips and salsa and a bottle of beer, and still come in under $20, I think. Why not just let some crackhead take his girl on a date? What's the harm, you ask? I could stand a lot worse fate, like someone charging a big screen TV on my card at Best Buy.

    But money is not the point. It's about the Chipotle experience. It's the idea that someone could be experiencing la joie de Chipotle on my dime without earning it. To eat at Chipotle with stolen money is to cheapen the experience. It's an experience that should be earned, whether as a reward for a hard day's work or a bright spot in an otherwise bad day. That anyone could march in and eat undeserved Tex-Mex makes my blood boil.

    nycblonde kindly informs us,
    It's not a Chipotle policy, it's an AMEX policy. Anything under $25 doesn't need a receipt.
    Thanks and boy, do I feel like an idiot for not reading that Terms of Services thing that AmEx sends me every now and then. Still, my outrage remains intract, except it's now directed at AmEx. Though I don't know which is worse, someone getting an undeserved Chipotle fix or a frickin $4 latte going on my credit card bill.


    So last week, our friends over at Slack Lalane posted a delightful mashup of The Big Lebowski and some classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which just about made my day, and then hours later, my friend JR in LA sent me the TMNT teaser, and that point, my nipples were perking up like Summer Sanders on coke. And I was all ready to do an early-90s nostalgia post, but one huge problem - the scarcity of YouTube clips of Parker Lewis Can't Lose.

    So I figure I could just put a Parker Lewis DVD on my Netflix queue and rip some footage. But guess what? There is no Parker Lewis DVD. How could this be? Do we, as a nation, no longer care about synchronizing our Swatches and eluding Larry Kubiak?
    Gentlemen, coolness has been abandoned.

    Though I did find out that Milla Jovovich was on the show once, so my reasearch was not all for naught. And I have to admit, I remember pretty much nothing from that show, or anything else from 1992 for that matter.

    Finally, apropos of pretty much nothing, from the people who didn't bring you the Ghostface doll, the Biz Markie doll:

    Monday, July 24, 2006

    I don't trust me around you: reviewing Good Bye, Lenin!

    "How is this a cliffhanger? You know Mer ends up with McDreamy and nothing's going to happen to Izzie."

    After I posted my summer pop music ratings, Feisty sent me the following IM:
    I can't believe more people didn't berate you for posting gay music.
    Now that I think about it- why weren't you reviewing better music?
    Fair question. How could someone with such incredible taste in music lower himself to talking about Top 40? My response:
    Because I find it hard to be critical of music that I actually like.
    When I like something, I fall in love with it so it's hard to judge it objectively, you know?
    I'm all for being fairness and balance, but too often, I just end up being Fair & Balanced.

    And that's the way I am with movies (and girls too, which is why I'm never going to love anyone, ever again). When I really enjoy a film, say, Amores Perros, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Zoolander, I fall hopelessly in love and turn into a babbling teenager with a schoolgirl crush on the swim team captain.

    Which is fine - I've said it before, I'm all for diving into love head-first, warts and all. But it doesn't make for particularly good critical writing. Who wants to read a gushing, tongue-bathing, five-star review about an above-average romantic comedy from Iceland? That is to say, take the following review with a grain of salt or two because I loved Good Bye Lenin!, so much so that I immediately sent off a glowing recommendation to all three of my Netflix friends (which is so so sad on so so many levels).

    I was skeptical when I read the synopsis,
    Alex Kerner's (Daniel Bruhl) mother Christiane (Katrin Sass) falls into a coma just as the Berlin Wall is about to come down. Eight months later, she wakes up, but her heart is too weak to withstand any great shock. So Alex goes to great (and often hysterical) lengths to keep the truth about her country's reform a secret
    which made it sound like the German marriage of Weekend at Bernie's and While You Were Sleeping. But I gave it a chance because, well, there isn't a single group of people with a better sense of humor than the Germans. When you think comedy, you think Germany.

    He fought the wall and he won.

    The film is driven by the growing gap between the rapidly changing Berlin and the mini-East Germany Alex creates for his mother in their apartment, and the near-misses she has with the outside world (her encounter with the statue of the titular Soviet icon is tragicomiglorious), but it's not a one-joke movie that it could have easily ended up being.

    Like all movies that are good rather than merely entertaining, Lenin works because it cares about each character. It points to the harsh side of revolution and capitalism for the older generation who can't adjust to the changes, but without ever moralizing or falling into the good ol' days trap. The characters are treated as people with needs and goals and desires, not plot devices. Oh, and Chulpan Khamatova, who plays Alex's Russian nurse girlfriend, is the most adorable thing you'll ever see smoking a joint.

    Lenin is heartfelt without being melodramatic, absurd without being ridiculous, and layered without being heavy-handed. And it passed my litmus test for foreign language films with flying colors - I forgot I was reading subtitles after about 15 minutes in (though I caught many, many uses of "scheisse", which came out during the games of Uno at the bar the next evening). So yeah, I loved it, and there's a pretty good chance you might too.

    Good Bye Lenin!: official|rotten tomatoes|netflix|imdb

    Btw, Blogger is acting up today. I apologize to readers using RSS readers for the multiple postings.

    Tuesday, July 18, 2006

    Rating the songs of Summer 2006

    Ah, summer. It's when the days are longer, skirts are shorter and jams trickle out of car windows and rooftops. I like to think I'm a connoisseur of good music, but like New York City girls and clothing, I shed my snobbery to adapt to the summer heat.

    I'm okay with rocking out to J-Lo's "I'm Real (remix)", even singing alog to Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way". Because it's not about the songwriting or exploring new territory or virtuoso performances. It's about shaking asses. Good bye, Sufjan, hello Kelly. To the ratings, we go.

    Rating system:
    5 - I'd put this song on my MySpace Top 8
    4 - So good, IKEA should name a bookshelf after this song.
    3 - You know, like, yeah, it's all right.
    2 - Not a fan. But if you like this stuff, I guess that's your opinion. A stupid opinion.
    1 - i'd pee on this track but I don't want to get my urine dirty

    Shakira "Hips Don't Lie" (video)
    Does this count as a summer hit? I don't believe so and I don't care. You know, I actually liked Shakira more when she was asking where the thieves were, but you know, her English-language albums haven't been bad. And no native English speaker could bust out lines like "Lucky that my lips not only mumble/ They spill kisses like a fountain/ Lucky that my breasts are small and humble/ So you don't confuse them with mountains". Yay, girls with small titties!

    But she hasn't had a crowd pleaser like "Hips", and not even the Verizon commercial or Wyclef muttering about refugees can ruin this track. If I were 10 years younger, this is the kind of track that would get my ass off the wall and freaking the first girl I see on the dance floor. But alas, the hips really don't lie, and that's way too much activity for a man my age.

    Rating: 3.99 - it's not "good" by any reasonable means, but it gets the ass shaking. How can it not?

    mp3: Smoosh - "Find A Way"

    Nelly Furtado "Promiscuous"
    A couple of months ago I was gushing about this track, how it's exactly the type of club banger that would've gotten me grinding on some unsuspecting sorority girl at Player's in Chapel Hill. Wait, I just said that about "Hips Don't Lie".

    But what I'd forgotten was that just over a month before that post, I was discussing how diminished expectations might help Nelly. That's exactly what happened. It's not that good a song, and her disastrous SNL performance showed this is a song that simply can't be performed live. And unlike "Hips", the repeated Verizon wireless commercials have diminished the song's value somewhat. Still, it passes the ass shaking test and I wouldn't issue a fatwah on the DJ for playing it. It's a good, but not great, get-your-ass-off-the-wall song.

    Rating: 3.49 - Is there anything more fun than whispering, "You're my promiscuous girl, girl," in a girl's ear?

    mp3: The Crystals - "Then He Kissed Me"

    Gnarls Barkley "Crazy"
    I hate to be one of those blogger snobs who talk a band up like they're going to be the next Talking Heads/White Stripes/Simply Red and then as soon as the band starts to get any kind of press, talk about how they're "so over". But I will. I'm so over Gnarls. I was over Gnarls before the album came out. I'm so, so over Gnarls.

    Don't get me wrong, it's a lovely, lovely track, even if Ceelo and Danger Mouse are overindulgent. There's a reason why hipsters and the TRL set love this song equally. Danger Mouse found an incredible sample to build upon while Ceelo paints the words like a pastry chef putting on the finishing touches on a cake.

    I think people take to this song and Gnarls because what they do doesn't show up in pop music very much. Or rather, because of what they're not. They don't have a genre, they have no persona and no apparent agenda. They're just an idea, putting together music that's at once retro and post-modern. Which is cool, but the novelty wears off and you're just left with okay music.

    Rating: 3.14159265 - Did I mention I was over Gnarls Barkley?
    Just as I write that, they up and come out with this video. Yeah, it's Forest Gump '06 (speaking of which, will Haley Joel Osment be doing the FG sequel?) but shit is awesome, a music nerd's wet dream.

    mp3: New Order - "Age of Consent"

    Lily Allen "Smile" (video)
    Another internet phenomenon who got huge in the UK. I've been talking up Lily for the past couple of months, so I'll be turning on her any time now. I like this song. It doesn't pass the ass shake test, but it does pass my drunken head bob test.

    Unlike Gnarls, who has maybe 2 other decent songs other than "Crazy", the rest of the album is fairly strong. I actually prefer "LDN", which I assume will be the next single. Still, not a bad soundtrack for a lazy Saturday evening spent boozing. Oh, and her dad co-wrote New Order's only #1 single.

    Rating: 4.57 - This is the song you put on at a cookout and don't care that you look like an idiot dancing by yourself.

    mp3: Lily Allen - "Oh My God" (Kaiser Chiefs cover)

    Christina Aguilera "Ain't No Other Man" (video)
    I don't get it. What's the big deal with this song? It's not like I don't like Christina. I want to like Xtina. I liked "Genie In A Bottle". "Beautiful" is rocktacular. But for every banger, she puts out about four absolute drecks. I have a friend who absolutely loves this song but he's gay so I'm not going to judge him. What's your excuse?

    Rating: 2.53 - Why? I'd pick it apart but I simply don't see what people find in it. Guess it's kinda interesting.

    mp3: Nina Simone - "Love Me or Leave Me"

    Beyoncé ft Jay- Z "Deja Vu" (video)
    The song starts out promising enough. Jay comes with "I used to run base like Juan Pierre" and spits some of his better rhymes post-"retirement". The horns make you think this is going to be "Crazy In Love Part II". Then B starts singing.

    Seriously, this is the lead single from someone who's attempting world domination? Weak, weak sauce. Jay puts in another decent verse, but what's the point? The song is shit, no matter what you've read.

    Rating: 2.020 - Really, what the fuck? Beyonce's supposed to be able to sing? Really?

    mp3: Freeway ft Jay-Z - "World War III"

    Paris Hilton "Stars Are Blind" (video)
    I was ready to hate this song. I don't find Paris Hilton attractive. And I think her celebrity is a clear indication that we as a society aren't exactly where we need to be. And her sex tape is just some tedious ass shit.

    So imagine my surprise -and my disgust- when I listened to "Stars are blind" and found myself enjoying it. It's like UB40 and Gwen Stefani got together and wrote an album. Well, if you took the song that was rejected from the UB40/Gwen Stefani album, you have "Stars Are Blind".

    She doesn't have to do much because the hook is so catchy and the drums are just right. And it's a good thing she doesn't do much, because the breathy singing is perfect.

    Rating: 4.495 - Just forget that it's Paris singing and pretend it's just some anonymous girl pop singer with millions of dollars of voice processing technology.

    mp3: Au Revoir Simone - "Stay Golden"

    Justin Timberlake "Sexyback" (not the video)
    I'm not going to lie, I kinda liked Justified. The kid may not be Michael Jackson, but he can sure sing Michael Jackson songs, which "Like I Love You" was before Pharrell realized Justin was going to sell more than MJ. You liked "Rock Your Body" and "Cry Me A River", I did too. And I don't want to sound queer or nothing, but if I were gay, I'd totally do him.

    But what the fuck. I thought "Deja Vu" was bad, but at least it's somewhat redeemed by the horn sample and the Jay-Z verses. what the hell is going on here? I'm willing to believe Bol here - Timbaland didn't produce this shit. Utter, pure shit. And my shit just instant messaged me saying how shit this song is.

    Can he go back to doing his Michael Jackson imitation? Or better yet, get JC, Lance, Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick to beat some sense back into him.

    I apologize, second Kelefa Sanneh link in the same post, but this deserves a mention (good looking out, Stan):
    Mr. Timberlake isn’t the new Prince, not by a long shot. Unlike Prince, Mr. Timberlake hasn’t made a career of acting as his own object of desire. And there’s no particular reason to think that on his forthcoming album, “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” due Sept. 12, he will continue the fight on behalf of “sexy” boys everywhere. (Though it seems his assault on the lowly space bar WillNotEnd/AnytimeSoon.)
    Rating: 1.01 - Wow. Just wow. Wowy wow wow this sucks.

    mp3: Justin Timberlake ft 50 Cent - "Cry Me A River (Remix)"

    By the way, I heard Bloc Party's "Blue Light" in a car commercial. At least I think I did. My reaction was twofold:
    1. That's so awesome.
    2. That's so uncool, from a snobby, selfish, indie-nerd-blogger perspective.

    Granted, indie acts getting car commercial paydays isn't exactly news (see: Spoon, The Walkmen, Pas/Cal, Grandaddy, M.I.A.), but there's something unsettling -I don't mean this in a good way or bad- about the alliance between multinational corporations and artists who drive their own vans and lug their own gear, no matter what you think of artists "selling out".

    Friday, July 14, 2006

    Details of victory

    Thank you, Andrew Krucoff for throwing the bash. Thank you, author Frank Portman for giving Krucoff a reason to throw the bash. Thank you Gawker Media for hosting the bash. Because your free alcohol (the lukewarm beer notwithstanding) took us to a place where we rarely venture to. (And thank you Pete for you awesome green shirt.)

    Thank you, Crime Scene Bar & Lounge on Bowery for your cheesy, so-not-Downtown decor and the beer pong table. And thank you mostly to Alice and Dan for making this happen:

    Dan nails itSome people wait a lifetime for a moment like this.

    Early in the evening, Alice texted me "We are here" as I headed to the Gawker Media fortress on Crosby Street. I wondered for a moment whether she was announcing her arrival at the party or wandering into existentialism. It turned out to be the former, but as the night grew on, it became clear, we were indeed here. At midpoint of the night, I realized we were somewhere when I announced that I was beautiful no matter what they said, as words could not bring me down. The night climaxed with us asking the age old questions. Where did he come from? Where did he go? Where did he come from, Cotton Eye Joe?

    And there was no more fitting end to the night than to walk out of the pizza shop and watch four douchebags in a New Jersey-plate Porsche convertible drive through NoHo, announcing to the world that they were living on a prayer and swearing they would make it if we took their hands (live the stereotype, the stereotype lives).

    No thanks. They were only halfway there. We were already here.

    Thursday, July 13, 2006

    Leave a message after the beep. Beep.

    I'm guest blogging over at extrawack! today. I also do weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and corporate events.

    I'll be back to regular ol' blogging soon. Ciao.

    Sunday, July 09, 2006

    spinachdip's guide to the 2006 World Cup: What the fuck?

    So close, yet so far away.

    So the clever writer that I am, I figured the headline for this post would be something simple, like Fin, or Les Bleus blew! or Up your ass-urrri, Azzurri!, but Lady Luck never seems to smile upon me. Rather, she prefers to pour a freshly poured pint of Boddington on my head.

    I mean, whether you supported for the cheese eating surrender monkeys of France or the greasy, flopping fascists of Italy, who would have wanted the great Zinedine Zidane's last act as a professional footballer to be this?

    That's Zidane in a nutshell - supremely talented, but with a temper to go along with it (but seriosuly, as Angelina asks, what did Cosmo Kramer say to Zizou?).

    And in an oversimplified way, that's why France lost (that's a new one, isn't it?). The +10 of France was playing for one reason - to give Zidane the last hurrah. Like D'Artagnan et les Trois Mousquetaires, the French were tous pour un. Too bad Zidane wasn't un pour tous. Think about it - let's say you and your boys are trying to get me laid because I've been on a dry spell (which is to say, a dry life) and I'm leaving for the peace corps tomorrow. And I go off and piss off every girl in the bar, making you look bad? You're not going to work as hard for me, are you? Voila, France loses.

    The more rational explanation is that France couldn't finish. They threatened so many times, but like every other team that faced the Azzurri, they could not penetrate the fortress that was goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. And one by one, the most dangerous weapons for France left the pitch. Midfield engine Patrick Vieira went out for an injury. Riebery was out of gas by the extra time. And there was that odd substitution, taking off Thierry Henry. To cap it off, a moment of madness from Zidane. By the end of extra time, France was zapped of its talent and will.

    Credit has to go to Italy though, however begrudgingly. They came through the toughest group in the World Cup, and beat Germany in Kaiserslauten, where the host nation had not lost in 35 years. You have to hand it to a team that gave up two goal the entire tournament - an own goal to the United States and a penalty on a dubious foul. Say what you will about their snorkelling ways, they were the best team in the tournament.

    But before we say our final so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu, let us recognize the eleven players who shined the brightest, spinachdip's Best XI of the 2006 World Cup:


    Gianluigi Buffon (Italy): Is there any doubt that Buffon is the greatest keeper playing right now? As well as Germany's Jens Lehmann played for Germany, even considering Ricardo's performance for Portugal against England in penalty kicks, there was one goalkeeper who stood above all. The two goals he allowed were an own goal to USA and a penalty to France. Rock fucking solid.


    Fabio Cannavaro (Italy): For me, the player of the tournament. He came up with so many big tackles and didn't make a single mistake. So much has been made about Italy's departure from its old negative ways to a fast, attacking style, but the defense never left the Azzurri. If Cannavaro doesn't get the Golden Ball, it would be a travesty.

    John Terry (England): England is, and will always be one of the most infuriating teams to watch, because its ability to ignore its talents and shit a game away. But like Italy, England's defense was ever present and Terry was the anchor.

    Philipp Lahm (Germany): Germany is generally known for its boring, boring, boring soccer, but the Mannschaft brought an attractive and attacking, yet disciplined brand of football, and Lahm was a huge reason. Always a threat down the flanks, his combination of offense and defense kept opponents honest while creating space for his midfielders.

    Ginaluca Zambrotta (Italy): Like Germany, Italy shed its image for boring, negative ways and the wingbacks were a huge reason. Fabio Grosso, Zambrotta's mirror on the left side, was the hero for his extra time goal against Germany and the penalty against France, but Zambrotta was the constant threat. His goal against Ukraine was one of the best in the tournament and he neutralized opposing wingers.


    Owen Hargreaves (England): David Beckham didn't show up. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard can't play together. But one player who did show up was Owen Hargreaves. It doesn't matter that Hargreaves was born in Canada and has never lived in England - he showed more commitment to the Queen and Ye Olde England than anyone else wearing St. George's Cross. He kept England in the game against Portugal after Wayne Rooney was sent off, and was the only English player to make his penalty. Knight him or something already.

    Michael Essien (Ghana): Essien is the only player in my Best XI not to play in the knockout stage. But I'm picking him precisely because he didn't play in the knockout stage. Did you see how Ghana completely dominated the Czech Republic, and the United States to a lesser extent? And how the Brazilian midfield had a field day against Ghana without him? That's Essien.

    Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal): I hate to pick Ronaldo here. As talented as he is, young Crisitiano is a complete douchebag. So much so that he lost out on the Best Young Player award because of his douchebaggery. Still, the only things stopping Ronaldo were his teammates' inability to finish, lack of marksmanship, and his tendency to go down easily and theatrically.

    Franck Ribery (France): What, no Zidane? Not after his Bonsoir! on Marco Materazzi. On the other hand, Ribery had a tournament he wouldn't want to forget - he was constantly dangerous, challenging defenders and creating room for Zidane. France will go through a changing of guards after the World Cup, but Ribery will be part of the team for a long time to come.


    Hernan Crespo (Argentina): Remember, oh about a week ago, when I and everyone else was calling Argentina the best team in the tournament? Crespo was a huge part of it, scoring 3 goals in the tournament. Pretty amazing for a guy who does absolutely nothing for his club side, Chelsea. And Argentina would have been in the final had they not given up a goal to one...

    Miraslov Klose (Germany): To be honest, I didn't think this Polish-born striker was that much. He rose to fame in the last World Cup, but that was mostly because of the three goals he scored in an 8-0 demolishing of Saudi Arabia. But in this World Cup, he's shown up in every match. He's scored key goals, the most important of which, the equalizer against Argentina, after which the tournament favorites completely fell apart. As the Univision announcers like to call him, he is Santa Klose.

    I had a difficult time leaving off the following players: Stephen Appiah (Ghana), Lilian Thuram (France), Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Fabio Grosso (Italy), Maniche (Portugal), Patrick Vieira (France), David Odonkor (Germany) and Clint Dempsey (USA).

    Finally, the best moments watching the match at Mr. Dennehy's in the Village:

    3. The boos for Cristiano Ronaldo in the final U2-accompanied montage, immediately followed by cheers for Clint Dempsey.

    2. The bigger cheers that went up for the Hot Brazilian Chick™.

    1. The biggest cheers of the afternoon going to Bill Clinton. I'm talking bigger than for either of the goals in the match. 5+ years under George W. Bush can do a lot for a dude's legacy.

    I hope you had as much fun following the World Cup as I did. Let's do this again in 2010.

    Thursday, July 06, 2006

    spinachdip's guide to the 2006 World Cup: Blue on blue crime (with nudity!)

    (Yes, there's a link to nudity in this post. If you're here just for the pictures, you should skip on down to the end of the post)

    I didn't want to mention this so close to your independence day, but let us now praise Takeru Kobayashi for, once again, proving that Japan is the greatest nation in the world. Infidel Joey Chestnut of the Great Satan America put in a commendable effort, but it always seemed like whatever Chestnut could do, Kobayashi could do better and with ease. You want Kobayashi to make history? Just ask, and he'll do it.

    But who knew that an even more epic performance was to come on Fourth of July? And I say this now with tongue completely removed from cheek - Tuesday's Italy vs Germany (highlights) was one of the greatest sporting events of this millenium thus far. I'm serious. I'm trying to think of a game that comes close. You can point to the Red Sox's comeback against the Yankees from 0-3 down or Liverpool's comeback against A.C. Milan from, again, 0-3 down, but both required a healthy amount of choking from the opponent, and after a certain point, there was an air of inevitability.

    Not so with the World Cup semifinal. We saw two quality teams with contrasting styles but no shortage of motivation and energy, going back and forth, attacking the goal and defending with aplomb, with almost every player at at least their B+ game. Well, except Italian forward Luca Toni, who spent most of his time either on the ground or crying for fouls imagined (most of the time) and real (occasionally). We at Mr. Dennehy's got around to calling him "LU-ca TO-ni!" for his constant protestations that came complete with the quintessential Italian hand gesturing. As our friend Mark said, "Live the stereotype, Luca."

    Though once you got past the Italian propensity to collapse at any hint of contact and the overall greasiness, it was a classic match. If we ever needed any proof that a scoreless match can be exciting (I don't - I prefer to watch the action on the field, not the scoreboard) the former Axis powers brought it. But just as the two teams looked ready to take the match to dreaded penalty kicks, midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo somehow found Fabio Grosso (you Australian kids might have heard of him) in a clearing inside the forest of German trees, and blasted a curling shot juuuust out of goalie Jens Lehman's reach and juuuuuust inside the far post. Bra-fucking-vo. Minutes later, the legendary Alex Del Piero took another beautiful pass and sealed the deal. 2-0 Italy. Auf wiedersehn, Mannschaft.

    Earlier, I had wished schadenfreude upon Deutschland, but I just didn't have the heart. Instead, I felt only schaden for Jurgen Klinsmann' men and freude was reserved for the 120+ minutes of drama I had just watched.

    LUUUU-ca TOOOOOO-ni doing what Italins do best.

    But of course, now that the divingest, greasiest team on the planet was in the final, it was now imperative that France defeat another team of divers, Portugal. A Portugal vs Italy final would, at best, set humanity back 30 years and unleash all sorts of evil demons into the world. Alas, France vs Portugal lacked even a fraction of the excitement Italy vs Germany provided, to the point that I fell asleep before half time after France took the 1-0 lead (thanks to an Italy-like embellished fall by Thierry Henry, ironically), woke up to witness Fabian Barthez almost screw it up in the 77th minute, and then fell back asleep.

    So what to make of the final? Well, for one, you must root for Les Bleus against the blue shirted men of Italy. As good soccer as Azzurri have played, they simply must be punished for their diving, whining ways. They must. It's easy to hate Italy, with its cynical style and woe-is-me attitude, but the team induces begrudging respect with their uncanny ability to find ways to win. Utterly infuriating. But when Italy does lose, it tends to happen in the most public and tragic fashion, making it all the more satisfying. And what bigger stage than the World Cup final against the one, the only, the outgoing legend, Zinedine Zidane?

    So here's what you should watch out for on Sunday (3 pm ET ABC/Univision):

    Eric Wynalda's utter contempt for everyone other than Eric Wynalda, especially studio-mates Brent Musburger and Julie Foudy: This is about the only thing that makes the Disney networks' coverage of Weltmeisterschaft worth watching (though I've grown fond of the Spanish Budweiser commercials on Univision). Wynalda is a complete asshole, and television need more people like him. Pairing him with the "let's try to find the weakest American sport analogy possible" Musburger and Foudy, the master of the obvious (and an owner of a vajayjay), is genius. Of course, Waldo should be careful lest he mess with Loudy Foudy too much.

    Attack: Italy boasts the talented and annoying Totti, the tall and annoying Luuuuuuca Tooooooooni, and the fast and annoying Camoranesi. France has Thierry Henry, who thus far has shown up just three times in the tournament - the dive to set up the winning goal against Spain, once, collecting Zidane's perfect free kick against Brazil, and the embellished foul against Portugal. Still, it hasn't mattered as much because Captain Zizou and his deputy Franck Ribery have been on their game.

    Midfield: This is where games are won. Well, other than the whole scoring thing. Italy has Gennaro Gattuso, who's rugged in a very un-Italian way, and Andrea Pirlo dictating the game, while the African-born duo of Claude Makelele and Patrick Vieira do the same for France. Whoever controls the middle third of the pitch wins the game. Or doesn't lose until penalty kicks, at least.

    Defense: Cannavaro is, in my mind, the player of the tournament so far - he has not looked vulnerable for a single moment. The bad news is, he's paired in defense with Marco Materazzi, who looks a little like Michael Richards in UHF, but isn't nearly as graceful. Still, Italy has conceded just one goal the entire tournament, and that one goal was an own goal against the United States (USA! USA!), while side backs Grosso and Zambrotta are active on the attack.

    The French defense is just as solid, with Lilian Thuram, one of my favorite players, ever (via 116street Soccer) anchoring while Sagnol and Abidal attack on the flanks.

    Goalkeepers and their significant others: Italy's Gianluigi Buffon has been solid as a rock while Fabian Barthez has continued to create excitement out of seemingly simple stops. So the advantage should go to Italy. But what about their wives, you ask? Good question. Buffon's wife Alena Seredova looks like this and this (NSFW). Not bad. But Barthez's wife is Linda Evangelista. See, all you have to do to land a supermodel girlfriend is to be a balding goalkeeper with a tendency to make shocking mistakes at inopportune times.

    Oh, wait: There's the third place match on Saturday. But really, who cares?

    And finally: Shakira.

    Tuesday, July 04, 2006

    Happy Birthday, 'Merica

    Y'all been good to me.

    And speaking of which, belated thanks to everyone who wished me happy birthday, via email or in person. Much appreciated. And one last huzzah to kids on internets with June birthdays, including Ali, Heather,
    Heidi and Angelina. Thanks especially to Maureen for the dinner and to Heather and the good folks at Essex for that cake.

    Here's to June, the greatest month, ever. I miss you already.

    Monday, July 03, 2006

    spinachdip's guide to the 2006 World Cup: Who controls the British Pound? Who made Steve Gutenberg a star?

    Zizou! Zizou!

    If last week told you anything, it's that you shouldn't take gambling tips from me. I actually thought Ukraine would score and England would win on penalties, for Freddy Adu's sake. But I will tell you who to root for in this penultimate round of the World Cup.

    Tuesday, July 4 - Germany vs Italy (3pm ET - ESPN/Univision)

    Having received my football education in Ingerland, it's hard for me to root for either team. Germany is to England the unibrowed baby is to Maggie Simpson, while Italy is the opposite of England: cynical, cheating, and generally successful.

    Not that either country doesn't have its charms: Germany offers tasty beers, fahrvergnugen and Heidi Klum. Italy has taught us dipping our breads in olive oil, gangland murders and the cooking of Giada De Laurentiis. But we're talking about soccer here, not real life, and as far as soccer is concerned, the two lands are still ruled by Hitler and Mussolini and it's 1939 again.

    I've thought about this hard and long, and I have to say, my hatred of Germany runs deeper than my hatred of Italy. Germany has been responsible for the early exit of teams I've liked many times - England in '90, England and Czech Republic in Euro 96, and USA, Cameroon and Korea in '02. Meanwhile, Italy has more often been a victim of unjust and/or cruel losses, like that extra time loss to France in the Euro '00 final, Baggio's missed penalty kick in the '94 World Cup, etc. Plus, every post-WW2 World Cup final except '78 has featured Brazil and/or Germany; with Brazil out, this is our chance to buck the trend.

    And the Italians have actually taken steps to be less greasy, as the previously girly-looking Totti, Cannavaro and Del Piero all took clippers to their temples and now sport more sensible, almost German looking haircuts. Plus, Torsten Frings has been suspended for his part in the post-match brawl, which takes away 50% of the fun from watching Germany -that is, shouting "TORSTEN FRINGS!!" at the screen. My call: Forza Italia and schadenfreude on Deutschland, but root for a penalty shootout for maximum pain.

    edit: Okay, I felt dirty proclaiming my support for Italy. Or more accurately, not rooting against Italy. But for all the talk about Italian diving, let us not forget that Germany is coached by Jurgen Klinsmann, a master diver in his days. In any case, bring your scuba gear to your local pub.

    Wednesday, July 5 - France vs Portugal (3pm ET - ESPN/Univision)

    I realize that it won't be Bastille Day for another 11 days, but Vive la France and shit. If I went back in time 10 days and told the Mid/Late-June Me that France would make Brazil look utterly silly, the Mid/Late-June Me would've slapped the shit out of Early-July Me, and then asked for winning lottery numbers.

    But here we are, France is playing like France 1998-2000 and all the usual pretenders - England, Spain, Netherlands - have dutifuly bowed out and have taken their planes home.

    Good bye English rose, may you ever grow in our hearts.

    Meanwhile, Portugal has made it this far by being good enough. While that might come across as a backhanded compliment, in past tournaments Portugal simply hasn't been good enough (or more frequently, not in attendance). You don't win many trophies if you aren't good enough, no matter how good you are. So i should be rooting for them to stop underachieving. This is their time. Yet, I can't root for them. They're doing enough diving for Italy and Argentina combined and they might actually be greasier than Italy. And I don't care how good Cristiano Ronaldo is, he's a punk ass bitch (and named after Ronald Reagan to boot). You simply can't root for Portugal.

    But you can root for France. Zinedine Zidane is playing magnificent soccer in these final matches of his career. He's one of the greatest athletes of his generation and playing in a World Cup final would be the most fitting way to go. All the while, Franck Ribery has done almost as great a job as J.C. Chasez to Zidane's Justin Timberlake, and the midfield duo of Patrick Vieira and Claude Makelele made mincemeat out of Brazil's attack. And hey, Thierry Henry dropped by for a goal! Drop your Francophobia for at least one day - allez les Bleus.

    spinachdip's guide to the 2006 World Cup: This goes out to the teams that ain't here no more

    Mes amis, I am in pain. And not just because of a spirited 2 vs 2 in Fort Greene Park last night, where I played like the strikers for Japan, missing sitters, not taking shots when available and missing the open man in front of goal. The game left my knees, neither of which is in the shape it should be for someone my age, with all the stability of IKEA furniture two years after its half-hearted assembly.

    I am in pain because this is the second day in a row without soccer, and I am oh too well aware that this would be the norm for the next four years. That fucking sucks. What do I look forward to? What do I talk about with my friends? What do I blog about? At least now, there is the anticipation of the semi-finals and the final, but what about a random day in October or an early-February Sunday? Surely I am not expected to simply go about the business of the day without the reward of futbol waiting at the end (or beginning, as the case often is) of the day. (there's club soccer, dumbass -ed.)

    But this post isn't about me. It is about the 28 teams that weren't quite good enough, never belonged in the first place, or got screwed over (Australia, you can sit down - I'm not talking about you).

  • First, R-r-r-r-r-o-o-naldo-oooooo, and Br-r-r-r-r-a-a-siiiiiiil. Ah, the burden of being the favorite is heavy enough without the "best ever Brazil team" tag. That's like taking a girl home and as you're clumsily searching about the dark for contraceptives, she whispers, "Paris told me you were, like, the best ever. Giggles." Let me tell you from experience - no matter how confident you are in your abilities, that level of expectations can turn play into chore.

    Which is exactly what happened to Brazil, it seems like. Ronaldinho was still smiling, but it was more of the "Welcome to Sheraton Minneapolis, how may I help you today?" smile, not the "My joga is so fucking bonito" smile.

    And benching Adriano? I don't care if that made more sense tactically (it didn't), if you're the best team, you dictate the matchups and force your opponents to respond.

    But as it is, Ronaldo has (probably) played his last World Cup match and Brazil is out. But the way they've played this tournament, they hardly looked like Braaaaaaasil, but instead, just plain old Brazil. Good riddance.

  • Oh, what was I thinking picking England to win on penalties? That never happens. If there were hordes of angry English fans (English fans, angry and violent? Never!) waiting at Heathrow, their tomatoes should be aimed at two people - Wayne Rooney and Sven Goran Eriksson. Roonaldo for his stupid, stupid, stupid stamp on Ricardo Carvalho's nether region, and Sven for his horrible, horrible, horrible player selection.

    Let's just say this about Shrek Rooney - incredibly talented, probably the best player to come out of in a couple of generations, but a complete dick and a dumbass. If he can work on the latter, England has a future. So England's future is kinda bleak.

    Sven - like Brazil, good riddance. So he has Wayne Rooney coming back from an injury, and even if he wasn't, he's a hothead and you want insurance. Then you have Michael Owen, who's also coming back from injury and generally fragile. Peter Crouch is under-appreciated, but he can't play by himself. So as the fourth striker, he picks a 17-year-old who hasn't appeared in a real game for his club team. And he paid for the decision dearly in the late stages of England vs Portugal when England kept kicking the ball up to the giraffe-like Crouch, who couldn't do much once he got the ball.

    Still, let us now praise Owen Hargreaves, who was pretty much everywhere on the field Saturday. He was everything that other England players weren't. And he actually made his penalty, which none of his teammates could do. Greatest Canadian soccer player, ever.

    Oh, and it's nice to read Michael Davies criticizing ESPN employees on ESPN's website. Well, it's nice to read Michael Davies, period.

  • They say in soccer, form is temporary, class is permanent, and what a bunch of classless fucks Argentina turned out to be. To think I enjoyed watching them play. But they completely fell apart after Germany scored. And taking off your best player (Riquelme) and leaving two of the most dangerous attackers in the tournament (Messi and Saviola) probably wasn't the best idea.

  • Ukraine - blah.

  • Ghana was my favorite team (well, other than Japan and the US) in the tournament, and they held their own against Brazil even without their best player and midfield lynchpin, Michael Essien. Stephen Appiah needs to play in England - why hasn't Manchester United offered a contract? He's exactly the kind of player they need. And hey, there's that 17-year-old Freddy Adu, who's still eligible to play for his native country. Of course, they'll probably miss the World Cup in 2010, as the best African teams often do.

  • I like Australia, but as I mentioned already, Italy deserved to go through. Controlling the match mean nothing if you don't try to score or make silly mistakes in your own penalty area.

  • Netherlands - so, so disappointing. But that's how they roll. Spain, likewise.

  • Switzerland is out without conceding a single goal. Seems appropriate.

  • Finally, Japan - this pretty much sum things up. Japan's World Cup was over when the first Australian goal went in, so good fucking riddance. Thank god Zico is gone. And if Hidetoshi Nakata does not play another game for his country, I will be very very happy (oops, careful what you wish for). Likewise for Alex, Takahara and Yanagisawa. Time to bring on the new generation.