June 24, 2006

Germany 2, Sweden 0: Lukas Podolski scored twice in the first twelve minutes, and Germany dominated an undermanned and outclassed Swedish team the rest of the way to earn a quarterfinal berth, probably against Argentina on Friday. Germany's performance through four games has been a vindication over the controversial, "American" tactics of manager Jurgen Klinsmann, who now finds himself the frontrunner to assume the same position with the U.S. Klinsmann lives in Orange County, and would no doubt find the move less taxing.

One of the more popular postings on World Cup-related blogs has been an attack on the lead announcing team for ESPN-ABC's broadcast, Dave O'Brien and Marcelo Balboa. Boycotts of the English language broadcasts have been proposed, an online petition has been started, demands that the Disney corp apologize for this massive affront to American soccer fans: a veritable clusterfuck of indignation. For most of the people watching, it's hard to see what the outrage is about. The broadcast sounds like a typical American sporting broadcast, not unlike what you would hear if the sport was basketball or baseball, the sport O'Brien hails from.

The real reason for the outrage is simple. Native-born American soccer fans are elitist pricks. Soccer is the only sport that is regularly attacked in the sports section, so we have to had to develop a pretty thick skin over the years. We have had to go out of our way to get our soccer fix, hitting pubs at 5 in the morning to watch Premier League games, picking up rudimentary Spanish to follow the broadcasts on Univision. As a result, we have come to see ourselves as a Band Apart: we're not the ones with the problem, it's the ordinary American sport fan, who despises soccer as an element from a foreign culture, that misses the point. When the World Cup comes around every four years, the sport picks up more than a few casual fans, fans who aren't in the slightest bit interested in the Bundesliga or the lastest fixing scandal in Serie A, but who are intrigued by the international flavor and intensity of the event, and those fans easily outnumber the native-born fanatics.

So it's not like Dave O'Brien is doing an inept job announcing the games.* Any American announcer would be getting blasted; every American who has attempted to announce World Cup games in the past, from Jim McKay to Mario Machado to Charley Jones to J.P. Dellacamera, has been blasted by the American Soccer Fan. It's part of the snob appeal of the sport, not unlike how the connoisseur of the music felt when Ken Burns did his documentary on the history of jazz; if an American is doing the game, and he's bringing techniques learned and crafted from announcing other American sports, he's going to get roasted. It says less about the quality of O'Brien's work and more about the chip on the shoulder that the native born fan has towards American culture

*One of the attacks, I swear to God, is that one of the announcers allegedly called the English goalkeeper Paul Robinson, "Paul Robbins", a syllable that probably gets dropped a hundred times during the Premier League season by announcers trying to think on their feet in the middle of a game.

June 23, 2006

A good thumbnail guide to the various teams that made it to the Round of 16, starting tomorrow.
Switzerland 2, South Korea 0: The last Asian team (and the side with the loudest fans) gets sent home early. The Swiss scored once in each half, and used a rock-solid defense to crush everything the Koreans threw at them, to get the win and the group title. Next up: Ukraine.

Incidentally, Sunday's telecast on ABC featured a look-in at fans of the Korean team at a packed Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. Many of those fans chanted and sang in Korean, and waved Korean flags in celebration after their team scored late to tie France. And yet, none of the Minutemen xenophone-types were complaining about such blatant disregard for the feelings of true Americans....
Pity Party: Atrios tries to get a grip on why everyone doesn't love him and the other Kewl Kidz:
There are a variety of reasons people seem to like to get their hate on at us, especially Markos, and I'll try to spell them out as I understand them without bothering to argue with them.

1) A-list bloggers have shitty blogs that no one should read but people just read them because they've been around for so long.

2) A-list bloggers are supporting the wrong candidates/causes. They are doing X, but they should be doing Y.

3) A-list bloggers suck up all the attention from better bloggers who everyone should be reading.

4) A-list bloggers end up representing the "netroots" but they shouldn't.

5) A-list bloggers aren't generous enough with their links and should be providing more publicity for other bloggers.

6) A-list bloggers are stupid and they're ugly and nobody likes them.

Of those, I'd say 2, 3 and 4 are simply the nature of the beast; you support candidate or cause A, and supporters of candidate or cause B will get upset. Kos, especially, is feeling the heat for that right now. 1 is definitely not true, since many of the uber-blogs on the left are relatively new (like FDL and C&L, both of which came after 2004), and Kevin Drum has been around awhile without resting on the laurels earned back in 2001-2.

5 and 6, though, are definitely true, and is one area where the Right has us beat. The most frustrating thing for any blogger starting out is to get attention, but conservative bloggers have the good fortune that people like Glenn Reynolds, Mickey Kaus and Hugh Hewitt are very generous with their links (perhaps too generous; it would have nice if someone had bothered to perform due diligence before linking to Thomas Lipscomb several weeks ago), sending traffic to many different sites every week, and nurturing allies for the future. These guys get lots of e-mails, requesting or demanding that they link to one thing or another, and lord knows that must be terribly annoying, but they still manage to spread some of that wealth around.

And if you've sent such an e-mail in the past, of course, there's nothing like receiving a rude response, or having an "A-list Blogger" (cute terminology, btw, straight from the Social Register) cite something of yours without giving you credit, to ensure an enemy for life. It shouldn't be any surprise that the lack of civility, of common decency, towards one's adversaries that has become so endemic in the blogosphere, should also reflect an unpleasant personality by the blogger. As Richard Nixon might attest, and as George Bush has discovered the past eighteen months, if you've kicked a lot of people on the way up, your inevitable fall is going to be pretty ugly. Your enemies will do what it takes to get even, and you'll find out that you made fewer friends than you thought.
France 2, Togo 0: It was scary for a half, but Les Bleus exploded for two goals in the second half to assure their place next week. Hats off to the Togolese, who made up for their unseemly complaints about bonuses and the like with three solid, albeit losing, efforts on the field. The star of last Saturday's Battle of Kaiserslautern, Jorge Larriando, officiated, but did not red card anyone. The French will take on Spain Tuesday in perhaps the most evenly matched of the second round games.
Ukraine 1, Tunisia 0: Andriy Shevchenko's penalty kick in the 70th minute sealed the game for the nation making its first appearance ever in a World Cup game, in what may have been the most tedious, dreadful 90 minutes so far. After having been exposed to this, I might have problems fathering children. The Carthage Eagles controlled the match, but had a man sent off just before the halftime on the worst call of the tournament.

This group was easily the worst of the tournament; the Ivory Coast, Czech Republic, U.S.A., Poland, Serbia, and possibly even Paraguay would have all qualified ahead of Ukraine had they been placed in this group, and the Ivory Coast would have undoubtedly won the group. FIFA definitely needs to do a better job seeding next time.
You'd thing after all the "terrorist cell" stories that have turned out to be bogus, the media would prove to be a little more skeptical this time, but I guess that's asking for a lot. Where the lead investigator is admitting that the "plot" was more "aspirational than operational", and its leader is someone who goes by the name "Prince Manna" and "Brother Naz", that's a pretty good indication we're not talking about an imminent threat.
Spain 1, Saudi Arabia 0: Having already clinched a spot in the next round, Spain took their collective foot off the pedal and played their reserve team, and still dominated a weak Arabian team. All eleven starters from the opener against Ukraine were benched, and seven players saw their first Cup action. There are too many teams like the Saudis in the World Cup, teams with no hope of advancing. The big difference between the NCAA Tournament and the World Cup is that the Field of 64 gets winnowed down immediately; SUNY-Albany, Alabama State, and Oral Roberts play their games, get beat and go home, while the Saudis, the Togolese and the Costa Ricans stick around for two weeks, their hopes dashed right off the bat, but still having to put out a team to sacrifice to the soccer gods.

June 22, 2006

Croatia 2, Australia 2: In perhaps the most exciting first round game so far, the Socceroos rallied twice, scoring the tying goal with less than twelve minutes to play, then hung on in the teeth of a desperate Croatian attack, to clinch a berth in the next round. Croatia is eliminated in the first round for the second straight World Cup, while Australia, which had never scored a goal in its previous history in the tournament, gets set to take on Italy. The game-tying goal was scored by Harry Kewell, who had only narrowly averted a suspension prior to the game for blasting the officials in the aftermath of their loss last Sunday to Brazil.
Kosonoia: Pro, con and con. The posting of private e-mail would normally shock the conscience, if it were a person-to-person communication, and not being sent out over a mass listing. If you're going to send a message that you want to keep private, it's best you not send it out to a hundred people. That being said, this Greg Sargent piece effectively demolishes the argument that because some liberal bloggers had expressed concern over the issue, it somehow means Kos is silencing dissent.

What I don't understand is why there was such fine concern in the first place. An allegation that one prominent blogger is currently being investigated for securities violations, while another gives props to candidates who employ his buddy, is plenty serious. The old, "I can't talk about it right now, it's still being investigated" excuse, while it may justify the silence of the defendant, isn't an excuse for me, or anyone else, to keep quiet about the matter. We're supposed to be speaking truth to power, after all, and a similar pattern of conduct wasn't acceptable when it was Karl Rove being investigated.

And hoping the story will die out if we don't respond is, frankly, pathetic. I only hope the words "Let's starve it of oxygen" don't become the blogosphere's version of "give 'em an hors d'oeurve, and maybe they won't come back for the main course."
Brazil 4, Japan 1: The Fat Man Lives. The favorites shook off the effects of a stunning first half goal by Japan, then methodically took apart their opponents with three second half goals to clinch the group, and a second round match-up with Ghana. Ronaldo, who has been all but compared with Mo Vaughn and Vlad Guerrero in the bulk department, scored two goals, the first just before halftime to tie the score, and the second with eight minutes to play to assure the win, and thereby move into a tie with West German legend Gerd Muller for the most goals in World Cup play with 14. This was the team that everyone has been waiting to show up.
Italy 2, Czech R. 0: See, I told ya:
Italy has very little incentive to win tomorrow, and neither, for that matter, does the Czech Republic. The optimum result for both teams would be a tie, since both could advance. In fact, Italy would definitely advance, and the Czechs would in almost every other scenario; only a Ghana victory would knock them out. Similarly, a 1-0 loss to the Czechs would also likely assure both teams of advancing in almost every scenario. The U.S. would either have to blow out Ghana, or Ghana would have to win; a tie or close U.S. win sends both forward. Both teams can watch the scoreboard, and if Ghana strikes first, they can react accordingly, but if it appears that our game is a taut, close affair, there's no incentive to open things up.
And, as I predicted last night, once Ghana scored in its game, in the 22nd minute, it was only a matter of time before Italy would break loose, scoring five minutes later...ah, forget about it. I can't rationalize this away. I was wrong. Big time. Smythe sucks.

The best part of the game was actually the first fifteen minutes, with both teams applying intense pressure, and contrary to my prediction, both teams came out firing. The Azzurri played today they way a World Cup contender plays, and they could easily won by a more lopsided score. The Czechs looked old...a much bigger disappointment than the Americans, since they were supposed to go far in this tourney, and their dominant performance in the opener was supposed to be The Tell. Instead, it just showed how overrated they were.
W.A.T.B.: Kos' response to the TNR allegations is up, and frankly, it's pretty lame: a demand that his readers discontinue their subscription to the New Republic. If you want a more substantive defense as to one of the more serious charges, that Kos uses the Advertising Liberally network to silence critics on the left, check out here, here, and here, while TNR responds here. Kos' claim that his private e-mail urging other uber-bloggers to stonewall the specific allegations against him and his chum, Jerome Armstrong, was "off the record", while true, just doesn't cut it; after all, so was Nixon's efforts to cover up Watergate. We're still left with dangling charges that Kos and Armstrong have been shilling for politicians in a manner not unlike the way Armstrong was shilling penny stocks a few years back and getting slapped by the SEC, particularly concerning their egregious conduct in the Ohio Senate race last year. Any lefty blogger who turns a blind eye to that deserves all the scorn he receives.
Ghana 2, U.S.A. 1: We wuz robbed, maybe. An atrocious call at the end of the first half gave Ghana a penalty kick, which former Juventus star Stephen Appiah converted. The goal allowed the Black Stars to play D in the second half, and in spite of coming close a number of times, it wasn't to be. Clint Dempsey scored the only goal for the U.S. in the 42nd minute off a perfect pass from DeMarcus Beasley, but the subpar effort of playmaker Claudio Reyna proved devastating.

In the aftermath of the game, the ESPN crew really took off after Bruce Arena, another sign that it's a bad idea to have former national team players doing the commentary. Ghana was favored going into the game, and could have advanced with a draw. Thus, they played more cautiously than they did against the Czechs, and took advantage of a Reyna blunder and a blown call by the ref for their goals. Any tactical decisions that a coach might make are going to get mooted when the refs are calling phantom fouls in the penalty area. As for the rest, Ghana has a great team, and the big reason the U.S. couldn't work its game plan was that Ghana wouldn't let them. It was a tough group, and two good teams were destined to go home early. It just so happened that one of them was the U.S.

The other complaint was that the U.S. was doomed following their 3-0 loss to the Czech Republic, which supposedly put them in a hole from the start. Putting aside the fact that the inspired effort against Italy was largely due to the weak effort in the opener, the fact is, had the U.S. tied the Czechs rather than lose, they still would have been eliminated by today's loss. Had they tied the Czechs and Ghana, they would have been eliminated. In fact, had they beaten the Czechs, 1-0, the loss today to Ghana would have sent them home on goal differential. The important game was today, as it turned out, and they didn't get the job done, but the reason for that is what Ghana did, not what the U.S. failed to do.

June 21, 2006

Adolf Coulter: In the glorious tradition of Late German Fascists. Take the quiz. It's easier than it looks, and even I got ten of thirteen !!
Why the Nash Bargaining Solution will probably mean heartache for the U.S. tomorrow: Those who have seen the Oscar-winning film A Beautiful Mind probably remember the bar scene, where John Nash and some buddies spot a gorgeous blonde and several brunettes walk into a bar. His buddies, naturally, want to go after the blonde, presuming that even if they fail, one of the attractive but not stunning brunettes (Jennifer Connelly shows up later) will be there as a consolation prize. Nash, however, realizes that the best strategem would be to ignore the blonde, and pursue the more-attainable brunettes: all of them going after the same woman, even if she is the most desirable, would only offend her friends, harming the ability for all of them to get a lil sompn' sompn', while not assuring that even the least geeky of the lot would get lucky with the blonde.

It's a little bit more complicated than that, movies generally having to focus on a core audience beyond Ivy League mathematicians, but it does explain why the U.S. has its work cut out for it tomorrow if it wants to advance to the second round of the World Cup. On paper, it's simple: the U.S. has to beat Ghana by four goals. That gets Team U.S.A. in, no matter what else happens. Since that is highly unlikely, the Americans not having scored four goals in a game for some time, and Ghana having just manhandled the same team that beat the U.S., 3-0, in the opener, the next best scenario is for the U.S. to beat Ghana, and Italy to beat the Czech Republic.

Even if the first thing happens, I think it's unlikely the second will. Italy has very little incentive to win tomorrow, and neither, for that matter, does the Czech Republic. The optimum result for both teams would be a tie, since both could advance. In fact, Italy would definitely advance, and the Czechs would in almost every other scenario; only a Ghana victory would knock them out. Similarly, a 1-0 loss to the Czechs would also likely assure both teams of advancing in almost every scenario. The U.S. would either have to blow out Ghana, or Ghana would have to win; a tie or close U.S. win sends both forward. Both teams can watch the scoreboard, and if Ghana strikes first, they can react accordingly, but if it appears that our game is a taut, close affair, there's no incentive to open things up.

There is one obvious benefit to winning the game: avoiding a second round matchup with Brazil. But Italy wins the group with a tie, unless, of course, Ghana wins. However, an Italian victory knocks out the Czechs, while a decisive Czech victory would almost certainly eliminate the Italians. A safe, defensive battle would likely help both teams, while a wide-open, offensive match would kill the loser. And if there is anything the Azzurri does really, really well, its play dull, tactical, defensive soccer. So it looks like we'll have to wait til 2010....
Holland 0, Argentina 0: With both teams already through, and numerous starters on the bench to prevent yellow cards, only pride and placement were at stake, and it showed. Very, very dull.
One of the ironies of the Miami Heat winning the NBA Title last night has to do with the role Shaq played in the victory. The big reason the Lakers traded him after the 2004 NBA Championship debacle (besides the fact that they had grown tired of him acting the role of the Whiny-ass Titty Baby) was that he could no longer co-exist with Kobe Bryant, who had supplanted him as The Man on the team. When he went to the Heat, he was seemingly the big star, competing only with a player, Dwyane Wade, who had had a big rookie season but nothing else.

In the course of two years, Wade has gone from being a prodigy to being the Greatest Player on the Planet, while Shaq has just gotten old. It is safe to say that the Heat were carried to the championship on the tired shoulders and injured knees of Wade, while O'Neal spent a good portion of the 4th quarter in the games the Heat won on the bench, with Miami too paranoid to let him perform his clown act at the free throw line unless it was absolutely necessary. He won another ring, of course, and he still is one of the top centers in the game, but he now even less The Man in Miami than he was in L.A.
Cote d'Ivoire 3, Serbia & Montenegro 2: Rallying from two goals down, the nation known to most Americans as the "Ivory Coast" won their final game of the tournament, and all but assuring that S&M will finish 32nd in the standings when all is said and done. The Elephants are easily the best of the teams eliminated so far, and when you look at the five African teams, you also see Ghana a win away from advancing, as well as Tunisia, who threw a real scare into Spain on Monday, and Angola and Togo playing down-to-the-wire in each of their games so far. And this was supposed to be an off-year for teams from the continent, after upsets in qualifying knocked out perennial powers Nigeria, South Africa and Cameroon.
Then again, we might not be blogging about it simply because we find the story to be boring...but who knew there was a super secret e-mail list among lefty uber-bloggers? I thought there was something cliquish about the upper level progressive blogs, hyping each other, while starving the oxygen from everyone else. It seems Kos, Prof. Black, et al., now have a nifty way of generating a united, lock-step response on any issue...now that's a scandal.
Iran 1, Angola 1: With the door ajar to the next round, thanks to Portugal's early lead vs. Mexico, the Black Impalas had a chance to shock the world with a three-goal margin, but instead settled for the draw. In spite of having nothing at stake, the Iranians dominated play, and with better finishing would have won easily, or so I've been told.
Portugal 2, Mexico 1: In a battle of penalty kicks, Portugal converted, while Los Tricolores choked again. Maintaining its perfect mark of never having missed a penalty kick in World Cup play, Simao gave his team a two-goal lead midway through the first half, while Mexico, which has been eliminated twice in the past on penalty kicks, saw Omar Bravo blow a chance to tie the game on his second half attempt. The Portuguese, with nothing to play for and with five starters benched to prevent them picking up a second yellow card, took control early, then held off a furious Mexican push which continued even after Perez was sent off for "diving" in the penalty area. Both teams advanced to the second round for the opportunity to get slaughtered by Holland and Argentina.

The record of the four CONCACAF teams in the 2006 World Cup is an abysmal 1-7-3, with only Mexico's 3-1 victory over Iran in the first game breaking the monotony of failure. If this were the NCAA Tournament, CONCACAF would be the 2006 Big 10.
The trial of Saddam Hussein has always been the canary in the coalmine for the new Iraqi government. It has been conducted in such a haphazard and arbitrary manner to call its fairness into question, while failing to focus on the true barbarity of the ancien regime. Compared with, say, the Truth and Reconiciliation Commission in South Africa, or with the investigations of war crimes that the International Court of Justice conducted concerning Bosnia and Rwanda, the ongoing circus in Baghdad has been a joke, an indication that what we replaced Saddam with is incapable of administering the hallmark of any free society, due process.

So this morning's murder of Saddam's defense counsel by men purportedly working for the government should cause some reflection on what we've created in that country. The third defense lawyer to be executed since the trial began, Khamis al-Obaidi had been a low-key figure, exchewing the bombastics of his co-counsel or the buffoonery of Ramsey Clark, stating only weeks ago that "if we withdraw out of fear it will not be a shame for us as lawyers but for the entire Iraqi judicial system." Had this case been tried before a real court, at the Hague, he would still be alive.

June 20, 2006

Paraguay 2, Trinidad 0: Sweden's draw in the concurrent game with England made this one moot, but Paraguay gained a measure of consolation with the shutout win. BTW, ESPN's favorite stat is the one showing that teams which have scored first have some awesome, unbeatable record, like "25-3-8" or something. King Kaufman at Salon treats it with the respect it deserves: basically, any team that scores has just dramatically increased the likelihood that it won't lose, since 24 of the 36 games played so far have been shutouts. The really important goal is the second one....
The catfight between the Greatest Cyclist Ever and the World's Biggest A-hole continues, with Lance Armstrong calling for sanctions by the IOC against anti-drug czar Dick Pound for his role in the bogus allegations that Armstrong cheated when he won the 1999 title, and Pound responding by suggesting that the seven-time Tour de France champion and cancer survivor has "too much time on his hands." Pound has a chip on his shoulder against American athletes dating back to when he was the chief Canadian apologist for Ben Johnson, and the notion that he should be given any influence over drug policy for Major League Baseball is asinine.
England 2, Sweden 2: A pair of defensive blunders, the final one in the 90th minute, gave the Swedes an undeserved tie in a game the English dominated for long stretches. The result means that both teams advance to the knockout stage, where England will play Ecuador on Sunday, while Sweden takes on heavily-favored Germany on Saturday.
The tribute vice pays to virtue.
Poland 2, Costa Rica 1: In a meaningless game between two teams already eliminated, the Poles rallied after the Ticos took a first half lead on a free kick. For the second straight Cup, Poland gets shut out in its first two games before winning a moot finale, but at least both teams played as if they gave a s***.
Germany 3, Ecuador 0: With several starters resting and/or kept on the bench to avoid a second yellow card, Ecuador effectively pissed away whatever momentum they may have had from the first two games by easily falling to the Germans. The host country wins the group, and will now play the runner-up of Group B (likely Sweden or Trinidad) in the second round. As the ESPN announces repeated, ad nauseum, throughout the second half, all three goals were scored by players of Polish ancestry. Viva Reconquista !
A Michael Kinsley classic, on Bill O'Reilly, from Slate's 10th Anniversary:
Yet O'Reilly, like many other people, clings to the fantasy that he is a stiff among the swells. He plays this chord repeatedly in the book, a potpourri of anecdotes and opinions about life in general and his in particular. He had a very strange experience as a graduate student at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government (which let the likes of Bill O'Reilly through its ivy-covered gates, he is careful to note, "in an effort to bring all sorts of people together"). Other Kennedy School students, he says, insisted on being called by three names, none of which could be "Vinny, Stevie, or Serge." Their "clothing was understated but top quality … and their rooms hinted of exotic vacations and sprawling family property. Winter Skiing in Grindelwald? No problem." They tried to be nice, but Bill was nevertheless humiliated, in a Thai restaurant, to be "the only one who didn't know how to order my meal in Thai."

I should explain this last one to those who may not have been aware that Thai is the lingua franca of the American WASP upper class. The explanation is simple. American Jewish parents only one or two generations off the boat often spoke in Yiddish when they didn't want their children to understand. Italian-Americans used Italian, and so on. But WASPs only had English. (They tried Latin, but tended to forget the declensions after the second martini.) So they adopted Thai, which they use in front of the servants and the O'Reillys of the world as well. (At least it sounds like Thai after the second martini.) When they turn 18, upper-class children attend a secret Thai language school, disguised as a ski resort, in Grindelwald.
Having attended a prep school with some of the same swells O'Reilly speaks of, let me add that if you couldn't speak Thai, you were made to feel small by the kids from the mansions and country clubs. Even today, when one of the richies patronizingly corrects my pitiful attempts at "the Thai", I feel the same sting. Damn you, Ben Sherwood....

June 19, 2006

Spain 3, Tunisia 1: In what was the best game of a day marked by match-ups between countries with hitherto no connection with each other, Spain scored three goals in the final twenty minutes to rally past a determined Tunisian squad, and thereby advanced to the second round. Tunisia must beat Ukraine on Friday to remain alive.

Ratings so far for the 2006 World Cup have improved dramatically over 2002, which is not surprising considering the last Cup took place mainly in the wee hours of the morning in America. But the U.S.-Italy war on Saturday got the highest ratings for any soccer game in this country since the '98 Final, almost doubling the numbers for the third round of the U.S. Open and the sixth game of the Stanley Cup Finals, and nearly matching the numbers the same network got the following night for Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Today's games will be the true test of the number of soccer fanatics in America: it's one thing to get sports fans to watch the home country on a weekend, and quite another to tune into Switzerland and Togo at 6 in the morning.
At a recent gathering of local bloggers:

Word spreads that Ann Coulter is supposed to be coming, with Mickey Kaus. Mickey is ostensibly a centrist Democrat, but has long seemed to have a fetish for blonde Republican pundits. This is not to imply that they are or are not dating -- I have no idea.

So anyway, while talking to Christian Johnson and Donna Barstow, I see Mickey arrive with the Ann-tichrist herself. Donna says I have to talk to her; that she would if she were more familiar with Ann's work. Christian is anxious to get a picture with Ann. It's funny how there are people here who have probably used all kinds of invective to describe her, yet immediately wanted to talk to her. Liberal blogger Joseph Mailander, for one, was seen conversing pleasantly with her, and I hope he blogs about what was said, cuz I'd like to know.

Andrew's a fan of Ann's -- I hear a fragment of a joke he tells her that begins "There were these two black guys..." but I didn't catch the punchline. It was probably funny.*

I ask Matt Welch if he'd met her. He responds "Have you met Eichmann?"

Matt is amused to snap a picture of Joseph and Ann. At first, I thought he was just trying to get one of Joseph in the same frame as Roger L. Simon The Man Who Created Moses Wine, whom Joseph frequently and amusingly beats up on metaphorically. Roger looks to have gained weight since last I saw him. Too much lounging around in pajamas?

I did not speak to Ann, though had I done so, I'd have asked what church she attends. I can tell you that she's very tall, freakishly thin, and has big hooters, though not obviously fake ones.

I tell Matt that I'm thinking of a joke along the lines of "What's the difference between Ann Coulter and a turd in a box?" I haven't figured out a punchline, but it probably ends with "....and the other is a turd in a box."

Matt Welch and Luke Thompson are officially deities. [link via LAist]

*No, it wasn't funny, since he wasn't overhearing a joke. See LYT's apology here.
A devastating WaPo piece on Jason Leopold, the journalist who "broke" the story about the indictment of Karl Rove. Leopold has a book out that he was hyping at a recent LA Press Club soiree. I left that one pretty early, since it seemed ridiculous to be listening to someone admit that much of his earlier journalism was little more than drug-addled fantasy.
Ukraine 4, Saudi Arabia 0: Four different players scored for the Ukraine, which earned their first World Cup victory over international soccer's equivalent of a Slumpbuster.
Switzerland 2, Togo 0: Putting aside centuries of bitter strife between the two countries, the soccer players of Switzerland and Togo met today in a match many fans have circled on their calendars for months. Goals by Alexander Frei and Tranquillo Barnetta, and a non-call inside the penalty area that would have given the Togolese a free kick in the first half, proved the difference. The Sparrowhawks showed up for the game, a matter that was actually in doubt only a few hours before thanks to a threatened walk-out by their players due to a dispute over bonuses. The Swiss can advance to the second round with a tie against the Koreans Friday, thanks to superior goal differential.

June 18, 2006

South Korea 1, France 1: Park ji-sung became the third Man Utd. player in as many days to play the hero, scoring in the 82nd minute as the Koreans rallied to tie Les Bleus. Thierry Henry of Arsenal had earlier put the French into the lead, notching their first goal in World Cup since the 1998 Final. More referreeing controversies occurred in the first half, when an apparent French goal was not called, and in the second half, when Zinedine Zidane received a yellow card that will keep him out of France's final group game (and may end his career), and marred the game. It will be difficult for anyone watching the game to get that ditty the Korean fans were singing out of his head.

One of the stars for France is their bald goalkeeper, Fabien Barthez. Barthez, who at one time was romantically involved with former supermodel Linda Evangelista, bears an uncanny resemblance to the late character actor, and original "Dr. Evil", Donald Pleasance, whose perhaps most famous for his recurring roles in the Halloween movies. But Pleasance earned a special place in movie lore for starring in films featuring two of my favorite actresses. In Cul de Sac (1966), directed by Roman Polanski, he played the owner of a castle who is visited by a mobster on the lam, along with his girlfriend, who is played by Francoise Dorleac. Ms. Dorleac was on the cusp of stardom when she was killed in an auto accident the following year, at the age of 25, and she was, almost impossible to believe, the prettier older sister of Catherine Deneuve. And of course, Pleasance also played the father of Smythe's World icon Phoebe Nicholls in Blade on the Feather (1980), a deliciously tawdry spy thriller in which my blogmuse, playing a spoiled young adult version of Varuca Salt, gets nekkid with co-star Tom Conti. Neither Dorleac or Nicholls really have anything to do with Fabien Barthez, Dorleac having died the year before Barthez was born, and there being no evidence that the infrequently-working Engish character actress has ever met the French goalkeeper, but as Nicholls' character would say in the above movie, "come on daddy, play the game...."
The New York Times does some nice bit of digging on Jorge Larrionda, the ref who endeared himself to soccer fans the world over with his carefree use of the red card in yesterday's U.S.-Italy match. Turns out that Larrionda had a bit of history, getting himself suspended in his native country (Uruguay) on allegations of corruption four years ago, preventing him from working that World Cup, and had blown two calls in a Confed Cup game involving the U.S. and Turkey in 2003, both of which led to Turkish goals.

Meanwhile, it seems that anger at the officiating has been limited to these shores. Elsewhere, the red cards handed out to Mastroeni and Pope have been defended. The Times of London reporter opined that "The match was to finish with just nine men on either side. Simone Perrotta was stretchered off after being caught by the boot of Carlos Bocanegra, and there were no substitutes left to take the field. Ugliness had finished the contest that neither side deserved to win." Der Spiegel agrees, while the title of the Sydney Morning Herald's article on the game ("U.S. Point Way as Red Mist Descends") must be seen clearly seen as a commentary on international disapproval of American foreign policy. Kevin Drum also backs the ref, while moderating a good discussion of the game in his comments section.
Brazil 2, Australia 0: The tournament favorites struggled at times against the surprisingly game Socceroos, but scored twice in the second half, including the first World Cup goal by someone whose entire name is "Fred". Ronaldo again looked shaky, a prematurely-aged has- been at 29. Thanks to security, there is apparently a dearth of something that has always marked Brazil games: samba drums. It takes away a lot of the color and atmosphere, but it does assure the paying customers safety from the threat of terrorists bringing dirty bombs into the stadium via percussion instruments.
Japan 0, Croatia 0:
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
Also, Japan saved a penalty kick in the first half.
U.S.A. 1, Italy 1: Works for me...I have to say, although it was technically the correct call, I have never seen a goal waved off because another player was offside on a shot. The Americans played out of their heads today, killing off a 45+ minute power play in the second half, and at the end of the game, it was the Azurri that was relieved the game was over.