Thoughts from Week 1 Of The Brazil World Cup 2014

The first rounds of the group stage are now complete, and here are some quick thoughts. Some of the players I enjoyed watching were:

  • Joel Campbell: The 21 year old Costa Rican had a great performance in their surprise upset against Uruguay. He’s quick and moves well without the ball. No wonder Arsenal has announced that they’re recalling him as soon as the match was over.
  • Cuadrado: I don’t quite follow Serie A, so Cuadrado was unknown to me, but this guy was marauding Greece all over the left flank and causing all kinds of problems. I wrote off Columbia because they don’t have their main man, Falcao (not to be mistaken with Falcao the futsal legend), but they put out a strong performance and may beat Japan to take the second spot. 
  • Kwadwo Asamoah: Another Serie A player, Asamoah was the best player in the Ghana v USA match in my opinion. Most of the chances were going through him, and he was crucial in retaining the ball in midfield and converting it to a direct chance. Ghana was clearly the better team, but they were caught napping on a set play, that gave USA the 3 points.
  • Thomas Müller: Seriously, he’s probably the best candidate for the golden boot award. Germany’s striking options are quite limited (old man Klose will make an appearance just to break the “most goals in a world cup” record, but won’t be used all that much), and most balls in the box will go to Müller. He’s got such an instinct, it’s crazy.
  • Son Heung Min: There’s a lot of hype around Son, who’s only 21 and plays for German side Bayer Leverkusen. He’s quick, strong on the ball, generally makes good decisions, but is a little too raw. I doubt he’ll make a big splash this tournament, but worth keeping an eye out for.
  • Andrea Pirlo: He may be my favorite player of the tournament this time around. I mean, just look at his beard! Worth gushing over. He may be one of the oldest players out there (will need to google that one), but he’s probably playing some of the best football he’s ever had in his career. Plus, Italy is extremely well organized and plays one of the most balanced football out there, largely because of Pirlo’s number 10 role.
  • Guillermo Ochoa: The Brazil v Mexico match was a battle of the goalkeepers and Ochoa put a performance of a lifetime. There’s probably going to be chants of “Ochoa for president” back in Mexico. Seriously, some crazy skills displayed, as if his hands were magnets and the ball was just attracted to them each time. 

Some other observations. 

  • Spain will bounce back. Uruguay will bounce back, but they won’t be nearly as good as 2010.
  • Germany has so many players playing “out of position” and yet they are dangerously good. Just goes to show the discipline, chemistry, and efficiency they have. If there’s a weakness, Neuer is supposedly not 100% and their back line is not the strongest.
  • Iker Casillas, once heralded as the best goalkeeper on the planet, may be past his best days. Wouldn’t be surprised if he gets benched.
  • Funniest gaff, was Wayne Rooney's corner kick. It’s what you’d expect from Sunday church soccer, not at the World Cup. Poor Rooney. 
  • Every American probably hates Jurgen Klinsmann, but he’s the best manager the US national team has ever had. There’s a great longform write-up from the New York Times that every World Cup fan should read.

And finally, the best and worst kits!

  • Best: Italy (exhibit below). So sexy! I can watch them all day! Who puts collar buttons on a soccer jersey? Italy, that’s who. Close runner-up is Cameroon. Compared to Nike and Adidas, Puma has some of the best looking kits out there.

  • Worst: South Korea (exhibit below). Wow. Beaten with an ugly stick. What are those, George Jetson shoulder stripes? And is that a priest collar? You can clearly see the design hierarchy in Nike, where a lot of attention are paid to the good teams (Brazil, France, Portugal, good kits), and all the scraps are given to the lesser teams (Australia, Greece, Korea, rubbish kits). Close second in this department is Honduras, which looks like a t-shirt.

Now, on to week 2!

I’ve had no time to write about the World Cup, even though I’ve been constantly thinking about it in spite of all the other more pressing things in life happening right now. Can this be Germany’s year? Is Paul Pogba going to have the breakout tournament that everyone has been hyping about? Will Italy be the flopping team that they are, or will they sport a new, more totaalvoetbal look? Will Thomas Mueller win the golden boot again? So many questions, so much anticipation!

A Primer on Bitcoin by RapGenius

Bitcoin is slowly gaining mainstream recognition, and yet it’s hard to understand exactly what it is unless you’re scouring through tech forums and The Economist. Enter Rapgenius, of all places, which just posted a pretty good primer. 

An Oral History Of Apple Design: 1992

It’s incredible how Apple has turned around from being a mediocre PC company to the world’s most valuable company that also happens to influence pop culture and design. This is a fascinating look at Apple design philosophy, according to insiders. Altogether, six parts. 

Game of Thrones “Mhysa” Review

Note:


It took awhile to get this final review for Season 3. Warren was out jetsetting across the  globe, enjoying a nice sunny vacation on the beaches of Cancun, and then trotting over for a gathering of hipsters, or also known as Bonnaroo. And with this, we will take a hiatus until next season. Or who knows. 

June 11, 2013

To Warren

I hope you caught the season finale of Game of Thrones during your stay in Cancun. Can I just start off by saying what a great ending to season 3? For the most part, season 3 was preoccupied with a lot of exposition and slow moving chess pieces around the board, but largely made up for it with the second to last episode, and this final episode sets things up very nicely for season 4. I know a lot of people on the internet wished that the “Rains of Castemyre” were the final episode, but if that were to be the case, I’d venture to guess a lot of people would feel betrayed and abandoned by the show-runners and perhaps really call it quits. Setting the explosive turn of events in the second to last episode (similar to season 1, where Ned Stark was killed then), allows the show-runners to use the finale to tell us what to look for over the horizon, that is, the next season. And a great job they did with that.

And boy, is there a lot to look forward to. Yara Greyjoy and her band of 50 assassins reminds me of some Seal Team 6 mission: completely badass. Bran’s band of misfits going north of the wall in White Walker territory seems like a one-way ticket to Mordor, very Lord of the Rings-esque. Then there is Stannis, who is coaxed to go north of the wall to fight the White Walkers by Melisandre, with the perennially underrated Ser Davos by his side (I can’t believe he’s not dead yet!). And how can we forget Arya? Her transformation is quite remarkable throughout the series, from tomboy child, to struggling orphan, now to budding assassin (it all begins to make sense now, from the training received by Syrio Forel, to the “friendship” with Jaqen H’ghar). Arya, Bran, and Jon Snow might be the ones to recover the honor of the Stark household, unless of course, they get killed while trying.

The conclusion is nobody is ever safe in this book, and more heartbreak may be around the corner for us viewers in season 4. Now, it’s time for me to catch up on the books.

June 23, 2013

To David

Sorry for the delayed response.

In all the years I’ve known my brother, we have never had a more profound bond over a TV show. We talk regularly now about how haunting the Red Wedding was for us, and how it still messes with us. And though I’m only 90% of the way through book two and loving it (A Clash of Kings) and my brother keeps telling me to read faster, I am kind of dreading reading the rest for two reasons:

1) I don’t want to finish and have nothing to tide me over before next season starts, and

2) some of my friends have hinted that it gets significantly worse for our friends in Westeros. I don’t know if I should consider this a spoiler, since it’s obvious that everyone is in danger, even if they don’t realize it. I doubt any of that could ever rival the Red Wedding, but maybe I should shut my damn mouth.

Yes, I agree, the season moved slowly at times… For example, I was frustrated by how long it took to reveal our “boy,” Ramsay Bolton. But it makes sense given the way it sets up the next season. I believe book readers are even more enticed because they know lots more about the badasses going to retrieve Theon, namely, how super badass they are. I wish I knew more about House Bolton and why they seem to breed such awful people. The ripples of the Red Wedding, like the death of Ned Stark, are surely going to ripple out for the rest of the series.

I didn’t love the whole “Mhysa” chanting scene. Her desire to emancipate everyone never really made all that much sense to me. And slaves by the thousands pouring out from behind the city walls lifting her up like that made them seem like stupid sheep. Usually people in this series have more depth than that. Maybe she’ll get to know some of her new liberated people?

Some lingering questions I have now:

1) The Hound feels suddenly responsible for Arya. He sort of became her protector right there during the wedding. What does this mean for her? Will he remain on her death list? Will she escape?

2) What did it mean when Cersei said she would not be marrying Loras? How does she plan on defying her father?

3) Dany has the Second Sons and the Unsullied and three baby dragons… how much more power does she need to march on King’s Landing?

4) How will the rest of the realm react to the news from the Night’s Watch? What role will Bran play north of the Wall?

And probably most importantly, what happens when the show catches up to the books?

June 25, 2013

To Warren

Glad you made it back in one piece amidst all your adventures. 

I need to agree with you on the point about “Myhsa.” It didn’t really do it for me either, and I’m going to be the first one to say this, but the whole Daenerys character just isn’t my cup of tea. I’m all for strong female characters, which this show has a bunch of them, but Daenerys just seems a little forced. Maybe the books portray this transformation better, but the whole naive little girl to warrior princess to emancipating queen just seems a little too much contrived. 

I’m very interested in following the Hound’s journey. That has all the right mixes to become a really shocker. 

And to borrow from Jon Stewart, here is your moment of zen. Until next season!

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