Mon, Dec 31, 2001

: The Pledge

Director: Sean Penn

This film has two key flaws: one, it’s a murder story without a resolution (extremely unsatisfying — the murderer isn’t caught), and two, the fairly ordinary plot is told at a snail’s pace. While Penn’s technically excellent (I liked a number of things he did, including an interesting camera move through the open skylight of a car), he seems to confuse a slow pace with depth: a glacier pan across a lake does not make a scene profound. Thus the film feels ponderous and heavy and several hours too long. That wouldn’t be horrible if the payoff was worth it, but it’s not: the tale is simply that of a retiring police detective who becomes involved in a case of the rape/murder of a little girl on his last day and can’t let go, continuing to investigate even after his retirement. Basically, this is a film that wants desperately to be deep, but ultimately isn’t as profound as an episode of Law and Order. Perhaps I’m just bitter because I put this in wanting an action film, but this isn’t worth your time. It’s a lot of potential wasted. Cut 50 minutes out of it and it might be a pretty good film.

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Sun, Dec 30, 2001

: Memento

Director: Christopher Nolan

Wow, what a fantastic film! This, by far, is the best movie of 2001. It really pushes the film-making envelope. I was hesitant seeing it. I’d heard it was good, and also heard it was a little weird. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but sometimes it makes for an “arty” film that’s pretentious and boring. This was neither. It’s a fascinating film noir where how the story is told is just as important as the story.

The concept is simple: the main character’s a former insurance investigator who’s searching for the man who raped and killed his wife. He wants to kill the murderer. There’s one key problem, however: the man’s brain injury has left him no short term memory. It’s not amnesia: he knows who he is and where he came from, but he can’t make new memories. So if he meets you, in five minutes he’s forgotten it and he’s introducing himself again. This makes criminal investigation a challenge, to say the least.

The guy has a solution to his problem: he takes instant pictures and writes notes to himself. The “my car” picture tells him which car in the parking lot is his. A photograph of a motel reminds him where he’s staying. He can’t use the telephone because he’ll forget who he’s talking to without a face in front of him. It’s a bizarre life.

Director Nolan gets us into this life with an unusual gimmick: we experience the film in reverse. I mean the entire film is backwards! We see the end, where he kills the man who murdered his wife, first. Then we go backwards through his investigation, step by step. The film is entirely made up of flashbacks!

This no doubt sounds confusing. But astonishingly, it isn’t. Everything is extremely clear (more than in many films). Normally we know the past and the future is unknown. In this case, we know the future — he kills the murderer — but we don’t know the past. Just like him. But unlike him, we’ve seen the future and can remember it, so when we’re seeing something from his past, we can put the two together.

The result is incredible: as we put the pieces together, we’re constantly reevaluating our assumptions. For at each event, we assume that what we are seeing is reality. And it is, to an extent. The problem is that it’s reality based on the guy’s notes: he makes decisions based on what his previous self told him. This is the ultimate “blind-leading-the-blind” scenario! So a friend in one scene is an enemy, or maybe-enemy, in the next (previous). But since the guy can’t remember what happened earlier, he can’t tell when he’s being played. A good example of this is how the motel clerk rents him a second room, just to see if he’d notice. He doesn’t, and is paying for two rooms. And the scummy clerk openly admits this, knowing he’ll have forgotten by the next time they meet!

I won’t give away all the twists and turns of the plot: just go rent this film and watch it. It’s amazing. You’ll never think of reality in the same way again. It reminds me a great deal of the mind-bending stories of Philip K. Dick (especially

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Fri, Dec 28, 2001

: The Blue Nowhere

Author: Jeffery Deaver

Why is it that non-computer people always try to write hacker novels? This one is particularly far-fetched and ridiculous (A hacker’s virus causes a computer to catch on fire!), topped with gobs of extremely inaccurate computer mumbo jumbo. (For example, supposedly the evil hacker’s “trapdoor” virus can be embedded within a picture and just viewing it would cause your computer to be infected. That’s obviously technically impossible since the virus would have to be decoded [separated] from the picture before it could do anything.) Technical errors aside, the plot would be excellent for a normal serial murderer hunt, but in this case the killer’s a hacker using his computing skills for evil, so everything’s got to be computer-related. Towards the end the novel just gets more and more ridiculous as red herring after red herring is exposed, and the “climax” that one of hackers sending emails is really a computer is just absurd. Basically, for non-computer people this novel would seem to be a chore as you wade through gobs of computer jargon (dutifully and tediously explained after each use), while computer-people will find it digustingly inaccurate. It’s a no-win situation. However, if you can keep the computer falacies from bothering you, the novel is decent in terms of drama and it’s fast-paced (I read it in half a day). Just please, don’t take it seriously — real hacking is nothing like this Hollywoodized depiction.

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: Guys and Dolls

Good musical: I liked the story, though it was predictable (like most musicals). This particular version was extremely choreographed, making everything artificial (my usual pet peeve about musicals is how unnatural they are), but in this case it set a particular tone and style that after I while I accepted and kind of liked. There was a grace to the choreographed movements and blocking. Overall, there was too much exposition and setup (the film’s 30 minutes too long), and only a few of the songs are memorable, but the characters were well done and well acted. Marlon Brando was a particular surprise: he was excellent. Jean Simmons was terrific. Right off, however, I remarked at how the guy who played Nathan Detroit couldn’t sing. I cringed every time he tried. Later, while studying the DVD box, I discovered that that was Frank Sinatra! Well, I listened to him sing again, and I’ll stick with my original assessment: the guy was weak (can’t act, can’t sing — but hey, he’s famous, so give him a role). The guy who played Nicely Nicely was the best singer of them all (especially in his “testimony” song, “Sit Down, Don’t Rock the Boat” which was one of the best songs in the film).

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Thu, Dec 27, 2001

: Jackdaws

Author: Ken Follett

Excellent, fast-paced WWII spy novel, Follett’s best arena. This story takes place in the week before D-Day, the Allied invasion of France that ended the war. An all-female group of British spies is required for a critical mission: blowing up a German telephone exchange which will disrupt the Nazi’s communications during the invasion making them unable to respond properly to the attack. Unfortunately, there are few professional agents available, so Flick (a.k.a. Felicity), the leader, is forced to assemble a rag-tag team of criminals and rejects. The narrative switches between the progress of Flick’s mission and the efforts of Dieter Franck, the German major who’s trying to track her down. Dieter’s an expert interogator: his brilliant schemes and horrible tortures to get Resistance members to talk result in numerous coups for the enemy. As the mission begins, it seems that Dieter already knows too much and everything’s going to fail, but Flick’s quick-thinking and calm under fire manages to foil Dieter, at least temporarily, and the battle of wits is on. Will she manage to control her rambunctious and untrained team? Will they succeed in their mission before the Monday deadline?

As usual, Follett’s writing is smooth and unremarkable, the novel a quick, satisfying read. It’s slightly predictable in a few places, but overall interesting and different, intelligent, and great entertainment (exactly what a spy novel is supposed to be).

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Wed, Dec 26, 2001

: Three Kings

Comic Gulf War film about a group of soldiers who go off to steal gold Saddam stole from Kuwaiti, but end up helping homeless Iraqi rebels escape to Iran. It’s like a remake of Kelly’s Heroes. Some of the political issues were a little heavy-handed (preachy), and the constant military swearing (every other word) became tiresome after oh, thirty seconds, but overall it’s a decent film, with some humor, action, and morally acceptable ending.

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: You Can Count On Me

Not at all what I’d expected. This is a story about a single mother whose troubled brother comes to stay for a while, leads her eight-year-old son in trouble, and then she has to kick him out. However, her own life isn’t much better than his, as she’s having an affair with her boss. Extremely realistic and well-acted, with no easy answers or pat solutions to complex problems. I really liked the way the woman was so frustrated and angry at herself for continuing the affair, even as she was driving to the motel for another clandestine meeting. She’s a woman torn and uncertain, like most of us. However, the film’s best feature (no answers) is also its worst, in that nothing is resolved or fixed by the end, and though we’re left with an odd sense of hope, it was still unsatisfying. I felt the film had a message but in the end that message had yet to be delivered. I was also conscious that a fair amount of the dialogue included unnecessary swearing (I don’t mind it when it establishes character or sets a mood, but swearing for no reason gets to be a drag). End result: okay film, but falls a little short of the mark.

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Tue, Dec 25, 2001

: The Straight Story

Director: David Lynch

I was expecting this story to be a little slow, but while the film was paced as leisurely as a riding mower’s speed, it wasn’t at all boring. Lynch’s use of camera angles, editing, and occasionally unusual methods of storytelling kept things interesting. For instance, in one sequence, a car crashes into a deer, but instead of showing us the accident, we only hear it and the camera focuses on the face of main actor Richard Farnsworth as he reacts to the tragedy. It was far more emotionally effective than showing a realistic accident. Slowly, throughout the film, we learn about the main character, understanding more and more about it. Unlike most films which try to dump a lot of exposition within a scant few seconds and then move on to action, this film reserves details and releases them gradually, when appropriate, and for maximum impact. I really liked that. For example, in an early scene we watch Farnsworth’s daughter watch a ball roll down the street and eventually be retrieved by a small boy, and we see her sad face, but it’s only later that it’s revealed that her own children were taken from her by the state and she pines for them. It’s much more powerful to have the two pieces of info given to us separately than all at once: I wish more filmmakers had the instincts to do stuff like that.

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: Shadow of the Vampire

Terrific look at the making of a classic silent film, Nosferatu, the first vampire movie ever made, and one of the most realistic. The premise of this film is that the obssessed German director used a real vampire for his lead actor! Throughout the shoot, the vampire keeps killing various crew members, upsetting the director who can barely control his star with the promise of being given the neck of the beautiful movie actress as his prize. Funny yet poignant, with a lot of inside jokes, this is a terrific film for anyone who loves movies.

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Mon, Dec 24, 2001

: Moulin Rouge

Intriguing, unusual musical. Set in the infamous Mouline Rouge nightclub in Paris in 1899, the story is a romance between the club’s leading singer and a fresh-faced writer. The plot’s somewhat of a farce, with mistaken identifies and hilarious set pieces, but the love story is real and very well done. Nicole Kidman is excellent as the ill-fated courtesan, but while Ewan McGreggor’s singing isn’t bad, his singing performance is artificial. I was impressed at the way Nicole was able to sing and act at the same time (Ewan couldn’t do that, though his acting, when he wasn’t singing, was very good). The gimmick of the film — that the songs are variations and adaptations of modern rock songs — is hokey at first, but grows on you, and in the end added just the right touch of humor and cleverness to a great old-fashioned love story. Excellent; I was very impressed and enjoyed it thoroughly.

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Sun, Dec 23, 2001

: Fellowship of the Ring

Author: J.R.R. Tolkien

This is the first book in the Lord of the Rings series, a classic tale of an epic journey set in a fictional period of ancient history in a place called Middle-Earth. This book involves a lot of journeying, as various characters begin a quest to take the Ring of power to Mount Doom, where it can be destroyed. I’ve read the series a number of times — I believe this is my fourth — but this time I was most conscious of what an excellent writer Tolkien was. His turns of phrase, vivid descriptions, careful pacing, and dramatic story-telling are all unmatched. He isn’t a legend by accident. I agree with Tolkien that LOTR isn’t really a trilogy but a long book — the story doesn’t end at a particularly convenient spot (there’s obviously plenty to come) — so it’s difficult to judge just this one book on it’s own.

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Sat, Dec 22, 2001

: Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring

Director: Peter Jackson

First, let me start by saying this is definitely the best film adaptation of the novel. Peter’s an excellent director and what his team has accomplished here is impressive. Visually the film is amazing, everything you’d expect in a modern epic. However, that’s also the problem: expectations on a technical level are so high these days that one loses a sense of wonder and astonishment at the achievement. You gaze at a real Hobbit village and go, “Yeah. Looks real. Neat.” What that means is that the story must captivate you; unfortunately, even with three hours to tell it, the story gets short shrift. Jackson wants to explain everything, including a great deal of backstory that isn’t openly explained in the trilogy but told in Tolkien’s notes and other works, and the result is multiple movies within a movie. It’s not confusing, per se — he does an excellent job — but it is distracting from the main film. Part of the problem isn’t the director’s fault: LOTR isn’t a true trilogy (where each book stands on it’s own) but one epic story: the films, like the books, are best viewed sequentially. I’m sure I will like this much better when I can sit down (for nine hours) and watch all three films in a row. Meanwhile, this film on its own, while excellent, feels both overwhelming (too much info) and too brief (it ends as the adventure’s beginning).

Finally, I must protest at the script. Why the arbitrary changes? The writers and producers took years to write the three films and I’m sure there were rational reasons for the choices they made and if we were in a room together debating the issues, they might be able to convince me that they made the right decisions, but as a viewer and reader of the novel, I found their choices odd, puzzling, and occasionally distasteful. Why leave out the first adventures of the Hobbits in the Barrow-Downs and the characters of Bombadil and Goldberry? I always found those adventures critical in forming the partnership of the four Hobbits and establishing their ability to survive hardship: it preps them for the future, much more challenging difficulties. Now it’s not a huge thing, but it’s significant, and I don’t understand why, if the movie’s a rendering of the book, it can’t be done faithfully. Why do it all if you’re just going to change it? There are many other variations, along with some obvious mistakes. For instance, we’re treated with a battle with a troll in the Mines of Moria sequence: a troll is mentioned, but never fought in the novel. Why include that elaborate battle scene? And they left out the attack of the wolves before that, something I found exciting and terrifying in the book and looked forward to in the fillm. Perhaps, you say, they just didn’t have time to include everything, and I might agree except that the film often took time to include other scenes of less critical nature that wasted a great deal of time. For instance, the bit where Gandalf faces the three doorways and must decide which to take. They actually show him brooding for an extended period just like in the book: to me that’s exposition and has little place in the film.

Which brings up the whole issue of time, something I felt the film struggled with. In the novels, it’s never very clear when things happened throughout the history of Middle-Earth: events are refered to as being “long ago” or in the “Elder Days” and compared with other historical events that happened at a similar time, but you have to go to Tolkien’s notes to really understand the entire history of Middle-Earth, in sequence. Jackson does a good job of explaining this in the film’s prologue, which details the history of Ring, but then he plays fast and loose with time when it comes to the story itself: years pass between Biblo Baggin’s birthday party and Gandalf’s return to test the Ring by fire, yet in the film it’s just minutes. In the book, it takes Frodo a year to prepare and leave the Shire, but in the film he leaves on the spur of the moment as the Black Riders approach. I’m not sure what the point of that change was: perhaps the idea was to make everything more exciting and time critical, but showing that time has passed wouldn’t change that. To me that’s an extremely important part of Middle-Earth: the concept that travel takes months of hard toil. After all, LOTR is all about travel — the story’s essentially a quest, and 70% of the text is about the difficulties of the journey. In the film, those difficulties are tossed aside. Jackson initially shows a sequence of the Hobbits traveling out of the Shire in a near series of shots of them in various locals giving the impression that they’ve walked a long distance — but then he destroys that by having Sam pause and say that if he takes “one more step” he’ll be the furthest away from home he’s ever been! Obviously, they haven’t gone very far. And then they run into Pippen and Merry, who were at the birthday party, so they haven’t gone far at all! The key problem with this is that when the travel does take a long time — such as the journey from Bree to Rivendell — Jackson doesn’t even bother to show us such a montage of walking, but just has the characters there. For me, that destroys a core element of the novels, and throws out one of the main difficulties with life in Middle-Earth (travel without modern transportation). Just think about what home-bodies most of us would be if it took months of hard work to travel the next state! Since a montage of three or four or five scenes of walking just takes a few seconds, why not include it? It would enhance the epicness of the tale, be more accurate to the book, and reveal to the audience the difficulties of the journeys. Yet Jackson rarely does this, especially compared to the trilogy, where Tolkien is extremely careful to be consistent with the lengths of journies (from a writer’s perspective, it would be so much easier to just put down, “And after a fortnight’s walk, they arrived at…” but Tolkien does it the hard way, detailing everything that happens along the way).

While in general, I felt the characters were extremely well done and faithful, and I really liked many things Jackson and the actors did, there were a few ocasions where the characters were substantially changed and for no good reason that I could see. For instance, Mr. Butterbur, the innkeeper in Bree, was a good friend of Gandalf’s in the book he feigns difficulty remembering him: “Oh, tall fellow in grey with a beard? I remember him!” Now why do that? Why not just have him shrug and say, “I haven’t seen Gandalf in months.” Even if you don’t include the other scenes of Butterbur that are in the novel (where he absent-mindedly neglected to send Gandalf’s letter to Frodo and thus Frodo didn’t set out on his journey as early as he should have), why completely distort his character? Pippen and Merry are also made to look like complete fools: in the books they are foolish, but not dolts. The same goes for Gimli, the Dwarf, who bellows and blusters for comic relief, but we rarely get to see his intelligence. Perhaps some of those omissions will be corrected in the future films (with respect to characters that continue on in the series), but at least within this film, I found a few things odd.

There are also a host of silly mistakes in the film, from continuity errors to strange things that don’t correspond with the books. For instance, Frodo always calls Aragorn by the name of Strider, which is the name he first learned for the man. Yet in the film, when attacked, he calls out in desperation for Aragon to help him: odd considering that would be the time he’d likely use the name most familiar to him, Strider. I also found the “race to the ford” sequence confusing: the distance shots of Frodo on the horse show him ten to twenty feet in front of the Black Riders, but the intercut close-ups, the iron-clad hands of the Riders are grasping at his cloak! Very bizarre and childish error if you ask me.

Overall, however, this is an excellent film. I’m being nitpicky, of course, but readers of Tolkien know that he was the nitpickiest of us all. (In one rewrite he went through his novels and changed all references to tobacco to “pipe-weed” because he belatedly realized that the word “tobacco” hadn’t been invented at the time the story took place! That’s a stickler for detail.) Anyway, people who haven’t read the book recently will probably find it excellent and not miss a single thing, but of course since I’m almost finished reading Fellowship of the Ring, I was painfully aware of all the omissions and changes. That was my decision: I’d debated for the past year of whether or not I should read the book before I saw the movie or afterward, and I knew that if I waited I’d probably like the movie more, but in the end I decided I wanted to refresh Tolkien’s vision first, then see what Jackson had in mind. Overall I’m pleased, but a little disappointed, especially because there’s no explanation for why he changed so much (90% of my gripes could have been solved without adding any length to the film because I’d trim scenes he didn’t, and I wouldn’t include silly made-up scenes like battles with trolls that didn’t exist). Oh well. It’s a shame, because after this epic movie-making adventure, no one will ever attempt to do another version of LOTR (though I hold out hope that someone might do The Hobbit). This was the one shot to do it accurately and Jackson failed. He did produce a good movie, and I guess that’s good, but hardcore fans of the series will have mixed emotions because Jackson tampered with a masterpiece. Why he couldn’t do it right I guess we’ll never know, but it’s a bit sad to put in all that effort and still fall short.

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Wed, Dec 19, 2001

: Josie and the Pussycats

I never read the original Archie comics or knew anything about the group, but I was mildly impressed. My favorite aspect of the movie was the satirical nature of it, poking fun at pop music and pop culture. It wasn’t anything super intellectual — the story dealt with a plot by record company execs implanting subliminal messages in music to control teens (exactly like a certain Simpsons TV episode) — but it was fun to see the parody boy group “Dujour” which sounded better than their obvious model, the Backstreet Boys. By the end of the movie, however, the story had run out of steam and was nigh on ridiculous, yet everyone was playing their part with a seriousness I found depressing. Are we really so brain dead a society we find amusement in such vapor? Oh well, it’s obviously just mindless fun and eye candy, and in that regard it’s not a horrible movie, but it seems like a lot of wasted potential to me. It could have been much better, like (which should tell you something ;-).

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Tue, Dec 18, 2001

: Dinosaur

Nice little Disney computer-animated film about a dinosaur that becomes the head of his tribe. The animation is very impressive. The story isn’t terribly complicated (it’s predictable) and it tends to be a little heavy on the preachiness (hammering home the “never give up” message), but it’s harmless.

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Sun, Dec 02, 2001

: The Castle

Terrific Ausie film about a hilariously dimwitted family that lives near the airport and receives an eviction notice as the airport wants to expand (their home is being bought under eminent domain). They refuse to move out, however, fighting the action (with ineptitude) in court. Extremely well-written with sharp dialogue that’s full of irony. It gets a little outrageous at times, but mostly stays grounded to its premise and is ultimately a feel-good story about a David-versus-Goliath battle. Funny and well-worth your time, and it just might make you think a little about what you’ve got in your own life.

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Fri, Nov 30, 2001

: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

I really wanted to have a better reason to like this film than the fact that it stars Angelina Jolie, but unfortunately that’s just not the case. She’s perfect as the title character, and quite heroicly does her own stunts, but the film itself is a letdown, even by action standards. I knew I was in for trouble during the opening sequence where Lara is fighting a robot. After several minutes of bullet dodging and close calls, I said to myself, “This is probably her training program.” Sure enough, the sequence ended when Lara ordered the robot to stop. Lame, lame, LAME! And that directly leads the next criticism of the movie’s structure: except for the actual plot, Lara never raids any tombs! What’s up with that? We’re just supposed to assume she’s some bad-ass tomb raider because that’s the movie’s title? The problem with never having her tomb raid is that to make the movie “suspensful” (like we actually believe she’ll fail), she can’t be entirely successful at her tomb raiding related to the plot — that’d be too easy. So she struggles at that, and the end result is that we never really get to see her in her natural element kicking tomb butt. The plot — don’t get me started. What a ridiculous mishmash! This was almost as bad as the first Mission Impossible movie. It didn’t even make any sense! While not making sense isn’t the end of the world (lots of films don’t), they don’t take themselves seriously either. This film pretensiously acts like it’s real life yet does things like have stone statues come to life to fight without even a wink at the viewer! (For more pretension, watch the DVD extras where the cast and producers incessantly rave about what an awesome movie it is.) And I never did figure out how the bad guy knew Lara was going to come to him with the secret clock key before she’d even found the clock in her attic! Was that just bad editing or was the bad guy supposed to be psychic or something? Oh, the film’s beautifully shot, the scenery nice, the action sequences are pretty good, and Lara (Jolie) is great — but there’s no story to hold it all together. The mishmash “character stuff” about Lara missing her father (who vanished 15 years ago) is weak and underdeveloped; besides, I just didn’t care about any of it anyway! The DVD’s not bad — the extras mean more Lara (Jolie), which is all you want to see anyway. I wouldn’t mind a sequel: if they put together a decent structure they’d have something, but they need to hire Ang Lee to do the next one.

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Sun, Nov 25, 2001

: Vertical Limit

Pleasant actioner about mountain climbing. The plot’s worthless — brother goes to rescue sister who’s trapped on top of K2 — but the action’s not bad. It’s so over-the-top I found it scarcely believable. I seriously doubt mountainclimbers face this much death in a lifetime of climbing, let alone during one rescue mission. But of course one doesn’t watch a film like this for the plot, silly character pseudo-drama, or examples of logic: it’s all about the adrenaline, and this kept me entertained.

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Sat, Nov 24, 2001

: Bamboozled

Author: Spike Lee

Director: Spike Lee

Wow, where do I begin? Lee’s tackles an incredibly complex subject — racism — and throws everything on the screen. The plot is about a black TV producer who creates a new “racist” TV show which features black actors in blackface, sparking controversy and huge ratings. The producer did this just to spite his employers, but the show’s success puts him in the middle of an awkward dilemma. As his actors begin to rebel, we’re given lots to think about the nature of racism. Can a black man be racist? What about a black man who’s white (in personality and attitude)? Is blackface, by its nature, racist? What if the intention is not racist — like a mime’s whiteface isn’t racist? Does a person’s perception of racism make an act racist? (In other words, if I feel I’ve been racially slurred, have I been?) As I said, lots of complex questions. Ultimately, I’m not sure how many of these Spike answers — but its an intriguing film (though a little uneven).

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: Cats and Dogs

Silly but fun high-tech adventure about the war between cats and dogs. The two species do commando raids and use secret agents to foil each other. Terrific special effects (the animals were a combination of live animals, puppets, and digital and the result was seamless). Ultimately it gets rather ridiculous and carries the one joke premise too far, but it’s still fun.

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Fri, Nov 23, 2001

: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Excellent film — amazingly faithful to the book. I’ve never understood why Hollywood changes books when making films, but this one they did right. It’s a bit long, yes, but the screenery is so lush and spectacular I doubt you’d mind (just empty your bladder before the film starts). The casting was wonderful — far better than I could have hoped. Usually casting is awkward, since the readers feel they already know the characters and the movie feels too different, but this one worked. (I can only hope the same is true for the next month’s Lord of the Rings — I’ll reserve judgment until I see it, but I have misgivings.) Overall, a good fun film.

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Thu, Nov 22, 2001

: Dancer in the Dark

Author: Lars von Trier

Director: Lars von Trier

Fascinating movie, though a touch manipulative. It’s a “musical” about an immigrant worker in 1964 who’s going blind and is later set up for a murder rap. The woman is working to save money for an eye operation for her small son (so he won’t inherit the same eye disease she has). Her pitiful life is made palatable via her love for musicals, and throughout the film she has “musical dream sequences” where she imagines her life is a happy musical. Singer Bjork plays the title role and she’s excellent. The film’s disturbing and sad; unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason for it: I felt manipulated by the writer/director. I wanted some kind of resolution, an explanation, but instead all I got was purposelessness (which can be okay, if done right — but in this case he’s set the audience up to love this character and then he kills her). Definitely worth seeing, but be prepared to be disturbed.

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Tue, Nov 20, 2001

: Sara Groves at the Top!

Christianity Today has released their “best of 2001” and Sara Groves’ album Conversations is number two!

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Mon, Nov 19, 2001

: Chocolat

This was a neat idea: a mysterious, independent, openly immoral woman moves into a tiny highly-religious French town and opens a chocolate store during Lent, creating havoc in the town’s ordered way of life. Are her chocolates really magical? There’s a fairy tale sense to the film, similar to Edward Scissorhands. Unfortunately, the film takes itself a little too seriously and it’s overly long with not much of consequence happening. It’s still a good film, just not a great one.

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: The Wedding Planner

Pleasant, if predictable, romantic comedy. Nothing remarkable one way or the other.

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Sun, Nov 18, 2001

: iPod

I actually bought my iPod on Nov. 10, the day they went on sale, but I am writing about it now that I’ve had a chance to really play with it.

If you’re not familiar with iPod, you’ve got to check it out. It’s a tiny — and I do mean tiny… it fits in your shirt pocket — digital music player. The idea is nothing new, but Apple’s implementation is incredible. This is the way a music player is supposed to be designed!

The key feature of iPod is that it uses a new Toshiba 1.8” 5GB hard drive. That allows it to store over 1,000 songs! (Most MP3 players can only store an hour or two of music.) Of course there are other hard drive-based players out there, but they’re huge (the size of a portable CD player), only last three hours on battery power, loading your entire music library takes hours, and the interface for browsing through thousands of songs is actually painful.

iPod changes all that. The unique scroll wheel lets you zip through a thousand songs in seconds, with just one hand! The unit’s 20 minute “skip protection” memory means it rarely needs to power up the hard drive (just three times an hour) and that means long battery life: try over 10 hours! The final major difference is Apple uses a FireWire connection instead of the more typical USB. FireWire is the standard for digital video and it’s fast: you can copy over 5GB of music (over 72 hours worth) in about ten minutes! That same FireWire connector also provides power, so you use it to charge your iPod. You can even use iPod as a portable hard disk: move files between work and home, or give your laptop extra storage!

Apple doesn’t stop there: they’ve incorporated iPod into their MP3 software player, iTunes. iTunes is free: you use it to convert your audio CDs to MP3 format and manage your songs. Plug in iPod and it automatically syncs your iTunes songs and settings with your iPod! Creating playlists is a snap in iTunes, and having them available on your iPod is terrific. iPod lets you browse songs by artist, album, playlist, or all your songs in one long list. It’s really transparent and amazingly easy to use. iPod’s going to be the hottest item on everyone’s Christmas list this year.

Imagine holding a jukebox in the palm of your hand: that’s iPod. Mine has nearly 1,200 songs on it, and there’s room for a hundred more (I’ve got a few hundred megs of data on mine as well). I carry it with me everywhere, and it connects to my car stereo with a simple cassette adapter. It sounds great with headphones or plugged into my speaker system. I love having the ability to use my playlists to restrict music to my favorites or a particular genre that fits my current mood. If you love music, you’ll love iPod.

Topic: [/technology]

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Sat, Nov 17, 2001

: Monsters, Inc.

Cool movie! The plot is simple: harmless monsters live Monstropolis and collect the screams of children to power their city. But modern children are becoming jaded and more difficult to scare, so there’s a power shortage (since I live in California, the shot of a newspaper heading proclaiming “Rolling Blackouts Scheduled” made me laugh). Then a child accidentally enters Monstropolis, contaminating the city. It’s up to two monsters to protect her and return her home.

Not as wild and free as Shrek, and quite not up to the literary standards of A Bug’s Life and Toy Story, but excellently done. I love the subtle detail in the humor (such as the “Grossery” store in the background) which gives adults things to smile about. The story itself isn’t dramatically different, but it’s fun. The animation is nothing short of awesome, almost photo-real in places.

Topic: [/movie]

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Thu, Nov 15, 2001

: Michael Card/Sara Groves Concert

The concert was excellent — almost 3 hours long (I guess that made the $22 entry fee worth it). Michael Card started, then Sara began accompanying him, then she sang “The Word,” and after the huge applause, Michael said, “I’ve been trying to come up with a better way to introduce Sara Groves, but I haven’t come up with anything better than that.” Then Sara sang several and told some stories (including one or two I hadn’t heard). Then Michael came back and did the bulk of the show, and finally Sara came back and they finished together with a few duets.

I really liked Michael Card. I’d never heard him before. I bought a bunch of his CDs and a book he wrote. He has a similar style to Sara. He plays guitar or piano and tells stories like Sara. He reminds me of Keith Green (my favorite Christian artist).

Afterward, I went backstage and saw Sara and she dragged me to the RV to see Kirby (her son). He’s huge! Almost a toddler. I told her, “I guess that’s what happens when you only see a baby once a year.” He kept watching me with these giant blue eyes. Sounds like touring is a real strain and stress, but its also got its joys. They seem to be doing well. They saw my mom at the Visallia (?) concert on Tuesday.

Sara will be back in this area on Sunday, Dec. 9. This one is without Michael Card. I don’t know the time or anything, but there’s a number for the church on Sara’s website. It’s in Menlo Park.

Topic: [/music]

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Tue, Nov 13, 2001

: Missouri Trip

I just returned from a five day journey to my childhood home, Springfield, Missouri. Since I lived there during the key formative years of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade, I always say that I “grew up” there. I have happy memories of many days in the woods near my grandfather’s house, exploring caves, finding snakes and wild animals, picking blackberries by the bucketful, and doing daredevil bicycle stunts. The place is different now, with homes where there used to be trees I climbed, but it still has an Ozark feel. No matter where I settle down, there will always be a little Ozark in me.

I stayed with and had good long conversations with my Great-Uncle Lloyd and Great-Aunt Nita. When I lived in Springfield, we went to Lloyd and Nita’s every Friday night. He’s an artist and would let me go to his workshop and draw with his marking pens. (Now, like me, he does virtually everything on computer.) They’ve lived in Springfield just forever, and I was astonished to realize that Nita has been a member of the Central Assembly church choir since 1947! Now that’s dedication!

Speaking of dedication, I got to learn a bit about my family’s incredible history. I grew up knowing my grandfather and other relatives were prominent in the Assemblies of God denomination, but I had no idea to what degree. It was fascinating to visit the new A/G Museum and see pictures and artifacts detailing the history of the Assemblies and find out that my ancestors were part of that history (going back to the earliest days of the Protestant movement in the 20th century). It’s humbling and makes you feel like you’re part of a bigger picture. Since my father was killed when I was a baby, I’ve always felt a lack of history, like I came from nowhere. I know that doesn’t make sense, since I was close with grandparents and relatives on both sides of my family, but it’s just the reality I felt — a little isolated. (Having no siblings contributed to that I’m sure.) Anyway, it was neat to see a glimpse of the lives my ancestors had and see them as real people, not just names on a family tree chart. It also balanced well with seeing some of my second cousins, the new generation who are out to set their mark on the world (and doing a good job of it, judging by the success of singer Sara Groves — Lloyd found it amusing that he used to be known for himself, then he was “Dwight’s Dad,” and now he’s most famous as “Sara’s Grandfather”).

Wildlife Museum & Bass Pro

On Saturday we went to the new National Wildlife Museum that just opened in Springfield. It was impressive: several ecologies within a huge building you walk through. There were many living animals and a number of stuffed exhibits (like the giant polar bear). My favorites were the otters, who loved to play.

The Bass Pro shop, apparently the largest in the world, was impressive. Picture three or four Costco warehouses with multiple levels full of outdoor gear, boats, sporting goods, a restaurant, a museum, a barber shop, artist gallery, all intertwined with an indoor waterfall, aquarium, and hundreds of mounted animals and you’ve got a fair idea of what it’s all about. Wow, boy did I have a headache after seeing all that stuff! (Superstores tend to overwhelm me and turn me into a blithering idiot.)

Airport Security

This was my first trip after 9/11, and it was indeed an eventful experience. Most security measures were pretty standard, but there were some differences. For instance, my laptop had to go through the X-Ray machine by itself (separate from the bag), and they also scanned my coat. At San Jose, the guard made me take a swig from my water bottle — I have no idea why. In Springfield, security was even tighter: they used the metal detector wand on me, and it beeped at a wadded up foil chocolate wrapper in my pocket!

Perhaps they are overdoing things a bit: I saw a sign prohibiting baseball bats as carry-ons, for instance, yet old people carrying canes were allowed those. But it was interesting that I didn’t hear a single complaint from any passengers. Everyone cooperated and was in good humor, despite the delays and annoyances of the extra security.

BTW, if you’re interested, you can see pictures from my trip using this link.

Topic: [/travel]

Link

Sun, Nov 04, 2001

: Swordfish

Okay action film with mishmash plot about computer bank robbery. It tries a little too hard to be overly cool, and as you might expect, it’s ninety percent BS (none of the computer stuff makes sense), but that’s okay, since the ride’s colorful. The ending was a little different, which was good (the DVD has multiple endings — the one they used was the best).

Topic: [/movie]

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Sat, Nov 03, 2001

: Loser

Author: Amy Heckerling

Director: Amy Heckerling

Surprisingly good, low-key story about an ordinary country joe who goes to college in the big city and is treated poorly yet never loses his inherent goodness. It’s mainly a love story, but well done and acted. Nothing too complicated or intellectual, but pleasant and amusing. Written and directed by Amy Heckerling, who did the similar Clueless.

Topic: [/movie]

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Sat, Oct 27, 2001

: Club Quake Year-End Celebration

I went to a wonderful dinner in Santa Clara last night to honor the San Jose Earthquakes for their great season. Almost all the Earthquakes players were there, and I got my picture taken with Landon Donovan. In fact, I got lots of pictures of all the players, so I put up a series of them on my website here. Check out the highlights!

Topic: [/event]

Link

: Open Cup Final: L.A. vs. New England

As a San Jose fan, I had to root against the Galaxy, and for a while it looked like the underdog Revolution were going to succeed. They scored in the first half on a Harris deflected free kick, but then sat back and tried to defend in the second half, scorning some obvious goal chances. Big mistake. L.A. tied it up, N.E.’s Heaps got ejected for throwing an elbow, and in overtime, L.A. won it with a Danny Califf header. Not what I wanted, but justice was served. And I felt good for Danny, who was the one beaten by DeRossario in the Golden Goal in San Jose’s MLS Cup win last weekend. Final: 2-1 Galaxy.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Fri, Oct 26, 2001

: Bedazzled

Silly, predictable story with Elizabeth Hurley as the devil who trades wishes for souls, but her candidate eventually realizes the wishes don’t work out the way you’d expect and he’d rather remain a dweeb. Not as bad as I expected: in fact, I rather liked it. Harmless.

Topic: [/movie]

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Sun, Oct 21, 2001

: MLS Cup 2001: San Jose Earthquakes vs. L.A. Galaxy

Absolutely unbelievable. I was at the Britannia Arms in Almaden again, this time before 9 a.m. There was already a crowd of about 100 waiting for the place to open! At least I got a seat this time (latecomers did have to stand). The game it self was great. For some reason I wasn’t worried. I think part of that was that the real achievement had already been done: for the Quakes just getting to the finals was incredible. If they’d lost I don’t think I’d have been that disappointed (though losing to LA would have been yucky). The Quakes started of great, really pressuring and making L.A. look tenuous as they struggled to defend. But a brilliant long-ball counter-attack gave L.A. an early lead. San Jose had never lost all season when scoring first, but had the opposite record when giving up the first goal: thus it was a bit worrying to see them go down early. But the Quakes fought back and an innocuous ball to the center by Ian Russell fell to Landon Donovan’s feet and with one move he turned and blasted perfectly into the upper corner of the goal! Incredible goal, and it gave the Quakes the momentum in the second half, where they outshot the Galaxy 12-3 (at one point). But though Donovan and several other Quakes came incredibly close in the second half, no one could break the tie. I worried that a fluke goal would ruin the Quake’s party, but San Jose’s defense was absolutely superb, stealing the ball away from the feet of the L.A. offense on numerous occasions. In “golden goal” overtime it was obvious both teams were exhausted: the weeks of intense playoff games and a fast-paced game today had taken their toll. But the fresh legs of Canadian International, Dwayne DeRossario proved the difference-maker. A long feed to him on the left and he went right at the goal. The defense was slow at closing him down, so he took advantage, duked to the right and shot a curling ball that beat the keeper to give San Jose the championship! Incredible! What a fantastic conclusion to a fairy tale season. From worst in the league last year to champions this year! Even better, it was well-deserved: San Jose outplayed all the teams they faced. Awesome. Final: 2-1 San Jose!

Topic: [/soccer]

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Sat, Oct 20, 2001

: Star Wars: the Phantom Menace

Not as bad as I feared. Yes, Jar Jar Binks was annoying and incomprehensible. But once you relaxed and stopped trying to understand him and just ignored him, it wasn’t bad. Digital effects were very impressive, and surprisingly, I actually liked the story. It was modest, certainly not worthy of the hype, but competent. The worst thing was the dialogue: absolutely ridiculous. At times it made me laugh out loud it was so terrible. (Do they really use modern expressions like “brain-dead” in the Star Wars universe?) I suppose I had such low expectations that I actually liked the film when I finally saw it. Funny the way that works.

Topic: [/movie]

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Fri, Oct 19, 2001

: The Road to El Dorado

Pretty good animated musical. The songs were so-so (the lyrics sucked big time), but I liked the story, the artwork, and the two main characters (bumbling con artists who find El Dorado and are mistaken for gods). Above average, but not up to the standards of films like Toy Story II.

Topic: [/movie]

Link

: Driver

Pointless drivel about race car drivers. Confusing if you’re not a race car fan — I couldn’t even figure out what was going on! The special effects were impressive, though obviously digital. The non-race “character drama” stuff was just lame.

Topic: [/movie]

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Wed, Oct 17, 2001

: MLS Playoff: San Jose at Miami (Game Three)

Absolutely amazing, historic! I sensed history and decided to watch this game at a pub — the Britannia Arms in San Jose — and boy I am glad I did. The atmosphere was incredible: the place was packed to standing-room only. One person joked there were more people there than at a typical Earthquakes game! Once the game got going, there were constant cheers, jeers, and other vocal expressions in support of the Quakes and in mockery of the Fusion. It was great. The longer the game went without either team taking a lead, the higher the tension mounted.

Zero-zero at the half, it continued that way in the second half. San Jose definitely dominated play, controlling the ball and having the most chances, but they couldn’t quite break down Miami’s defense. Miami was bunkered most of the game, defending desperately, but they did manage a few breakaways — and San Jose’s goalkeeper extraordinaire Joe Cannon came up huge, making several game-saving blocks.

Finally, the game went into sudden death overtime. The hundreds gathered at the Brit watched with bated breath and sweaty palms. I dreaded the thought that a fluke goal by the outplayed Fusion would end the Quake’s season. Then the Quakes earned a corner kick (one of nine in the game) and Mulrooney put the ball in play. In the center of the box, Jimmy Conrad headed it high and away from the goal. The Miami keeper had stepped out a bit on the cross, and now he dived frantically back to the goal. But Troy “The Beast” Dayak — winner of the ACE Comeback of the Year award for his best season ever after two years off due to a horrible neck injury — leapt up and headed the ball into the goal! It was a golden goal of fantastic consequences. Suddenly, San Jose, the worst team in Major League Soccer last season, is going to the championship this Sunday!

To get there they beat the best team in MLS, the Miami Fusion, as well as the Columbus Crew. Incredible!

What I REALLY like are these stats from the four semifinalists (cumulative of all the playoffs).
Goals Scored Goals Against
Chicago 7 5
Miami 5 10
Los Angeles 9 9
San Jose 12 2

Note that San Jose did this in five games, while all the other teams played six! They face this L.A. Galaxy this Sunday (9:30 a.m. Pacific on ABC) and it should be an awesome game. Both teams hate each other, have aggressive playing styles, and want to win their first championship.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Tue, Oct 16, 2001

: The Family Man

Predictable but pleasant film about a man presented with the experience of an alternate path of his life. In real life went for career over love and had terrific financial success and no personal life. Once he’s presented with the way his life could have gone had he pursued family over wealth, he realizes what his life is missing. Well done, but certainly not deep. Strongly reminencent of 1950’s films like It’s a Wonderful Life (but not as good).

Topic: [/movie]

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Sun, Oct 14, 2001

: MLS Playoff: Miami at San Jose

Wow, what a fantastic and what a fantastic atmosphere at Spartan Stadium in San Jose. The place was packed, and I mean packed. The main parking lot was full and we had to park in a lot much further away and the delay meant I missed the first ten minutes of the game. But that was okay, since the Quakes didn’t score until the sixteenth minute, just after I’d found my seat and gotten settled. The chance looked like nothing at all: a loose clearance in Miami box went to Manny Lagos who fed it to superstar Landon Donovan in the box. He was surrounded by four players, so it didn’t look dangerous at all. But he took the ball to the left toward a group of three defenders, then rolled the ball backward with his left foot, did a 180 to retrieve the ball with his right. That gave him space on the right since the defenders were on his left. The fourth Miami guy was on the right but behind Donovan. He spun back around another 180 to face the goal, taking the ball with him, and slid it toward the right post. It went right into the back of the net! Fantastic goal. Then, ten minutes later, a bizarre event. I didn’t see what happened as I was following the ball, but two players collided on the far side of the field. Suddenly the ref was showing the red card… to a San Jose player! The place exploded with boos. Then there was another red card: to Diego Serna of the Fusion. Now the stadium rocked with cheers! When I saw this on the TV replay, it was clear that Zak Ibsen did kick Serna when they collided. I couldn’t quite tell what Serna did, though it was a bit of a tussle. But Ibsen’s “kick” was weak and hardly connected yet Serna rolled over in agony like he’d been shot, so perhaps the card came for being overdramatic. Either way, the cards shouldn’t have been red: yellows would have been more appropriate, though it’s understandable that you don’t want players retaliating. Also, after the first game was so physical, the league wanted the refs to crack down. The bottom line is that both teams were still even, at ten players each, and the game continued. In the second half, Landon was given a yellow for diving in the Miami penalty area. Another bad call: a closeup of the replay clearly shows the defenders elbow catching Landon in the jaw, knocking him down — he wasn’t pretending at all! It didn’t matter, though. Just minutes later, Landon feeds Ian Russell on the left side. He was completely alone and ignored, so he swivels to the right to get some space on his marker and curls perfectly into the top right corner of the goal. Beautiful! San Jose hasn’t lost all year when scoring first, and their confidence showed. After that it was all Quakes. A right scoop pass by Mulrooney (reminiscent of Donovan’s play of the week earlier in the year) and Lagos first-timed it into the net. With 18 minutes left, Donovan was back defending a bit, when McKinley did a ridiculously reckless tackle over the back of Donovan, and he was promptly red-carded. Miami was now down to 9 men and they pretty much gave up. It was like a practice game for San Jose. They passed the ball around and Miami didn’t even try to get it. Finally, San Jose would push the goal and bit and Miami would defend, but they rarely made any kind of a run toward goal themselves. After the McKinley ejection, Coach Yallop intelligently took Landon off (no sense risking him getting a second yellow or getting injured when the Quakes are up by three), and put in DeRosario. I told my cousin that DeRosario would score, and sure enough, with just a few minutes left, he did just that. He darted onto a weak backpass by a Miami defender and took the ball toward goal. The keeper came and dove, DeRosario dribbled around him and calmly put the ball away. The Quakes win it four to nothing! Now the series is tied one win each: San Jose has to go to Miami and win, and then they qualify for the Championship. Wow. What a season. From worst to first. Amazing. Go Quakes! Final: 4-0 San Jose.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: Startup.com

Fascinating documentary following a new dot-com business from founding to floundering. The filmmakers had remarkable access and produced something that is truly profound, dramatic, in depth, and real. However, the editing is astonishingly shoddy. The story jumps around and there’s little explanation for how or why anything happens: no subtitles, definitions, or setups, just raw camera-work that on occasion leaves you scratching your head wondering what happened. For instance, in two cases in the story, the company must terminate founding partners and the lead members go through the agony of having to battle with former friends. But there are no explanations for exactly what instigated the conflict, making our role as the observer an awkward and uncomfortable one (since we don’t know who to root for). Timing is also often strange. For instance, dates are titled on the screen occasionally, such as “March” but there is no year. At one point there was a sequence about the big dot-com crash of Sept. 2000, and the next sequence was dated April, leaving me wondering if it was April 2001 or if we’d gone back in time to April 2000! (It turned out to be the latter.) Bizarre and elementary errors, but I guess the filmmakers can be forgiven as they only had to film 18 hours a day for over a year and ended up with over 400 hours of footage to edit to 90 minutes (yikes!). Despite the obvious and confusing flaws, the story is remarkable, and it is this story that will be remembered generations from now when historians want to understand the whole dot-com phenomena. Fascinating.

Topic: [/movie]

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Sat, Oct 13, 2001

: God’s Debris

Author: Scott Adams

Fantastic little book! This is a book that has nothing to do with humor: it’s all about philosophy. It purports to answer all the Big Questions of the universe: what is God, is evolution true, is science dependable, etc. All these ideas are put into a loose fictional frame, but it’s really the ideas that move the pages, not any kind of story. This is the kind of I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys thinking about the unthinkable. It’s for people with an open mind who aren’t offended by new ideas and new ways of looking at things. It’s well worth your time. I started it at 11:30 at night, just intending to read a chapter or two, and I read the entire book in one sitting. I couldn’t put it down. It’s that good! Read, then give copies to your friends and sit down and argue over it.

Topic: [/book]

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Fri, Oct 12, 2001

: A Knight’s Tale

Surprisingly good film. Yes, it’s predictable, and yes it’s fun, but it has a few moments of actual decent dialog and an occasional thought. The plot’s simple: a peasant boy takes over for a dead knight and becomes the best jouster in the world. My favorite thing about the film was the technique to include modern rock music and certain aspects of modern speech (like a character saying “Wow”). If that was badly or indiscriminately done, it would be terrible, but it works beautifully in this movie, giving us a medieval setting with a modern tone. It’s a light comedy with some action and romance, and it works. There are so some nice conceits, like having Geoffrey Chaucer as one of the main characters.

Topic: [/movie]

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: Along Came a Spider

I wasn’t expecting this to be very good, but it was: I was actually surprised by the trick ending, and the plot and characters kept me interested the whole time. The only real flaw was the dreadfully stupid technology stuff the writers threw it (such as kids exchanging hidden messages in GIFs and a still picture that suddenly becomes part of a live website that tells detectives where the bad guy lives). Overall, a decent thriller.

Topic: [/movie]

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Thu, Oct 11, 2001

: The Devil’s Workshop

Author: Stephen J. Cannell

Typical bio-terrorism thriller, this time with a variation of Mad Cow disease. Not bad, with some interesting characters (including a woman as the heroine), but overly long and overly complicated for a simple techno-thriller. I didn’t like that the main bad guys were a crazy military Admiral and a group of religious nuts: aren’t we all tired of such stereotypes?

Topic: [/book]

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Wed, Oct 10, 2001

: MLS Playoff: San Jose at Miami

With two of the best teams in the league, I expected this to be a hard-fought battle, and it was. Unfortunately, Miami showed little of the skill and creativity they displayed during the regular season, instead concentrating on fouls and hard tackles, especially against the heart of San Jose’s attack, 19-year-old superstar Landon Donovan. The first half was the better half, with the Quakes out-playing Miami but failing to score. In the second half San Jose came out rough and hesitant, and Miami took advantage to pressure them. After several terrific saves by keeper Joe Cannon, he was beaten by a nice chip by Preki for the only goal of the game. San Jose fought back fairly well, but Miami simply bunkered down and defended, and in the end San Jose couldn’t get the equalizer (though they came within inches on a least one occasion). Overall, a decent game, though frustrating for a Quakes fan. San Jose played very well for most of the game, looked a little ragged for a bit after the goal, and ended strongly, but they’ve definitely got to work on their finishing, especially toward the end of the game (they tend to hold back a little defensively instead of all going forward for a goal). I’m looking forward to this Sunday’s must-win game 2 at San Jose: I’ve already got my tickets. Final: 1-0 Miami.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Sun, Oct 07, 2001

: World Cup Qualifier: U.S. vs. Jamaica Pre-empted by Talking Heads

A mix of good and bad. ABC had the nerve to completely pre-empt the coverage of the U.S. National Team’s World Cup Qualifier against Jamaica, an absolutely cruicial, must-win game for the States, with talking heads rattling on about the U.S. bombing Afganhistan. I understand them needing to report breaking news, but 1) there was nothing to report (no one knew anything), 2) what’s wrong with occasional news briefs or a running headline underneath the game coverage? and 3) ABC could have moved the game to ESPN or ESPN2. (They did, apparently, air the game tape-delayed on Monday on ESPN, but of course I didn’t know that until after it had aired, too late to record it.) Finally, does anyone really care about this “war?” Is anyone surprised or alarmed? Isn’t this what we’ve been expecting since Sept. 11?

Now for the good news: the U.S. not only won their qualifier, 2-1, but upsets in other qualifiers mean that the U.S. has officially qualified for World Cup 2002! It was a fluke series of events: Mexico and Costa Rica earned a 0-0 draw for one point each and Honduras was stunningly defeated at home by bottom-of-the-group Trinidad and Tobago! Those results leave both Mexico and Honduras with 14 points and only one game remaining, a head-to-head clash in Mexico. Only one of the two will be able to qualify (a tie puts Mexico in, so Honduras must win). The U.S. faces Trinidad and Tobago in November, but that game is of no significance now. (Prior to the other results, the U.S. had to win today’s game and the game in Nov. to qualify.)

Topic: [/soccer]

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Sat, Oct 06, 2001

: Joyfest at Great America

In the afternoon and evening I went to Joyfest, a Christian concert held at Great America. Bands included Audio Adrenaline, Newsboys, and Jars of Clay. Sounds quality wasn’t great (I’m not a huge concert fan anyway) and Newsboys were the only group I was familiar with, but the atmosphere was fun. Prior to the concerts I got to go on some Great America rides, which were fun. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that. There were lots of families and young people there, and that in itself was interesting and one tended to absorb some of their youthful enthusiasm. (I just had a birthday, so perhaps I’m feeling elderly. ;-) Overall, this was a long day of standing in lines for 30 second thrills. Not something I’d want to do regularly, but fun on occasion.

Topic: [/music]

Link

: Apple Store Grand Opening

This morning I went to Palo Alto to witness the grand opening of the new Apple Store. Over a thousand people were there and it was a terrific celebration of Apple. Steve Jobs was even there (I took his picture). It was great fun and hilarious to receive the funny looks of passerbys who no doubt thought we were crazy to stand in line for hours to get into a mere computer store!

Topic: [/technology]

Link

Fri, Oct 05, 2001

: Chuck and Buck

An interesting and unusual film. It’s about two former childhood best friends. Buck’s mother has just died after a long illness, and he’s suddenly free. But he hasn’t grown up yet: he tries to restore life to the way it was when he was a child. It’s a fascinating, in-depth look at a dysfunctional man. My only complaint is that I wish I’d known a little of what it was about before I watched it: I didn’t know if this was a comedy, drama, or anything, and that kept me a little on edge and focusing more on guessing where the story was going instead of just appreciating the characters. The film is well-written and acted, and frighteningly realistic. Lots of gray and little black and white. Definitely not Hollywood. It takes an honest look at a complex subject and shows it to us deformities and all. Excellent, though not always pleasant.

Topic: [/movie]

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Fri, Sep 28, 2001

: Spy Kids

Author: Robert Rodriguez

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Cool children’s flick from one of my favorite directors. It’s done with a lot of fun and style and moves at a frantic pace, and though the plot (evil genius wants to create robot army of children) is childish, it has enough intelligence to see that and spoof itself. It’s not quite a James Bond parody, but close. Lots of fun gadgets and neat special effects. I liked the fact that the adults, while not the main characters in the story (after all, it is called Spy Kids), are not dumbed down and irrelevant. The adults are terrifically played by the suave couple Atonio Banderas and Carla Gugino. The kids… well, they’re okay. Very ordinary, which is surprising for such a big movie, but I liked that they didn’t cast typical Hollywood cuties in the roles. Ordinary kids would relate well to these two. The film also has a strong Hispanic flair to it; it’s so strong that it makes you realize how few mainstream films included such characters (they may have a token minority or two, but it’s not like real life). Overall, it’s a lot of fun. I was disappointed that the DVD has zero extras: I would have expected much more from this kind of a disc (behind the scenes footage, documentary on all the special gadgets, interview with director Rodrigues, deleted scenes, etc.). Sadly there’s nothing, which means you may be better off renting this.

Topic: [/movie]

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Wed, Sep 26, 2001

: MLS Playoffs: Columbus at San Jose

What a day! I knew this was going to be a good day when I scored my lowest score ever in my morning golf game, and I had a feeling going to the Quakes game that evening that destiny was in the making. This was an amazing, incredible experience. San Jose has long been the whipping dog of MLS, not making the post season since MLS’ first year of existence in 1996. To see them not just succeed, but play superbly well, was inspiring. They deserved this win and more. They just toyed with Columbus — which aren’t a bad team — and I saw some quick passing sequences that took my breath away. Absolutely world class. I don’t want to praise them too much: they are a young team, and there were a few frantic scrambles and some lucky breaks, but they are playing impassioned soccer like champions.

Manny Lagos scored the first goal just eight minutes in. Donovan spread the field by slipping the ball wide to Wade Barrett on the left, right below where I was sitting. From my view in the stands, it was clear what was going to happen and everyone began standing up in anticipation. Wade’s cross was absolutely perfect, and Manny just needed a slight head flick to send it to the back post. Fantastic!

At halftime it was still 1-0 and I was a little nervous: would San Jose turn into the team of old and give up a late equalizer? Would they sit back and become defensive? The answer was a decided “No!” They attacked right from the start of the second half, not even giving the Crew a chance at offense as they were too busy defending. The Quakes’ attacks didn’t produce a goal, but they played smart and patient and didn’t get carried away with attacking and give up a goal at the back. With about 20 minutes left, coach Frank Yallop — easily my vote for coach of the year — took off Agogo and put in regular season scoring leader Ronald Cerritos. Within one minute he scored a goal with a great header.

That second goal pretty much settled the match. The Crew became desperate, fouling regularly, but they were a beaten team and knew it. (Interestingly, no San Jose player received a yellow card in this game.) The deal was sealed with fifteen to go when 19-year-old superstar Landon Donovan (who else) pulled a nifty move. Inside the box, he received a pass from Agoos with his back to the goal. He chested it down and twirled: his second touch was a blast into the back corner of the net! (You can see video of the goal here.)

All in all, it was a terrific performance that gets the Earthquakes their first semifinal berth ever. As the only team this season to win their quarterfinal series in just two matches (all the others must play a game three), they’ve got a ton of confidence going into the semifinal series where they’ll face either defending champions Kansas City or league-leading Miami. I was nervous about Miami, who’ve been the best in MLS all year, but with San Jose playing like this, no longer: bring ‘em on! The Quakes can take ‘em and will take the Championship!

Topic: [/soccer]

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Sat, Sep 22, 2001

: MLS Playoff: San Jose at Columbus

Round One, Game One: Terrific game and terrific result. San Jose had never won at Crew Stadium, but because Columbus had the edge in head-to-head competition during the season (the teams were tied on points) Columbus got home field advantage. San Jose came out storming with a goal from Landon Donovan just five minutes in, a Manny Lagos goal in the 31st minute, and another goal from Donovan just before the end of the half. That stunned Crew Stadium and took the crowd out of the it; Columbus scored on a penalty kick in the second half to give them a slight chance, but some gutsy defending by the Quakes kept them ahead. In the end, San Jose preserved their lead and won game one. Final: 3-1 San Jose.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Wed, Sep 19, 2001

: Trials of Oscar Wilde

Interesting film. Oscar Wilde is one of my favorite writers, and though I knew he was involved with scandals, I knew little of his personal life. I have no idea how accurate this film is historically, but it is well done. It shows the destruction of his brilliance by scandal, and in the end his spirit is broken. I found that the most interesting part: he is initially so full of life and wit and humor, but his conviction overwhelms him — he can scarcely believe what is happening to him. In many ways it is his own arrogance that destroys him (since he sues Lord Queensbury for slander and thus opens the door for his own criminal trial), except I don’t really believe in his arrogance: it’s too calculated. In truth, I think he felt a desperately inferior man and overcompensated and thus it was his inability to see reality properly that felled him in the end.

The film’s full of terrific Wilde lines; it reminds me, I need to read more Wilde.

Topic: [/movie]

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Sat, Sep 15, 2001

: Boys Don’t Cry

Extremely interesting and unusual film, made all the more dramatic as it’s based on a true story. The gimmick, of course, is that it’s about a girl who goes around dressed as a boy, but the film doesn’t manipulate that gimmick: it’s starts off with her as a boy and finishes with her as a boy. The core conflict isn’t so much the boy-girl confusion as it is the confusion of life in general: all the slacker characters have little purpose except for getting drunk and/or laid. The confusion of sexual identity is ultimately a metaphor for seeking the purpose of life.

There are a few glaring flaws in the film that meant I found the story slightly confusing: those were cleared up in the DVD commentary, but it’s poor direction when that’s required. To give one example, the film begins with the girl getting her hair cut like a boy and going out with a girl: according to the commentary, this was the first time she’d dared to do this, but that wasn’t at all clear from the scene. Without any knowledge of her previous life, I assumed she’d been doing this for years; but of course the events after that are more powerful when we realize that this is a new adventure for her. The film immediately cuts to a year later (there’s a date on the screen), but since we don’t know the date of the first scene, we have no way of knowing this is a year later! I figured it was later that night after that first date (which didn’t make much sense).

I recommend the DVD commentary version — it’s helpful at explaining some of the thought behind this provoking picture. Excellent performances also make this a good film. However, there’s still a gap between the audience and the main character: we’re let in, but the girl’s sexual confusion is never truly explained, and at the end of the film we’re still wondering “Why?” Perhaps this is just a personal observation or perhaps the confusion of sexual identity is never to be understood by someone who doesn’t suffer from it (though the writer in me refuses to believe that any experience can’t be explained), but either way, I found the film left mysteries unexplored. Still, it’s worth seeing just for the questions it asks.

Topic: [/movie]

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Wed, Sep 12, 2001

: Terrorist Attack

If the events of Tuesday, the Eleventh of September, 2001, had been scripted in a film, they would have been scoffed at as unrealistic. That four teams of terrorists could manage to hijack four different American planes at the same time is unbelievable, let alone that they could manage to crash almost of all of them into major U.S. targets.

The physical events are distant from me, but like most Americans, I’m affected. I’m saddened by the loss of life and property, and horrified that people exist on this earth who find joy in such destruction, especially when they attempt to justify their actions via religion. I’m angry at their arrogance to dare do this, and even angrier at Americans who dare claim that we somehow deserved this. No nation on earth deserves this, no matter what they’ve done. I’m nervous at the future: I’ve never lived through a war (I won’t count the Gulf War as a real war), but it looks like we may be heading that direction (as soon as we can identify an enemy).

The ray of hope through all this, and most touching to me personally, has been the response of nations throughout the world. In Europe, Champions League soccer matches were postponed in the wake of the tragedy, an unprecedented gesture. Weekend matches will feature a moment of silence preceeding the games. To see our allies and friends from around the globe unite in their sympathy is heartwarming; I only hope that American will respond in kind when it’s our turn (not that an American baseball game would ever be postponed for another country’s disaster).

Topic: [/politics]

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Sun, Sep 09, 2001

: Road Trip

Surprisingly good. I expected this to be terrible, but it actually had a bit of heart. The plot’s typical: a guy and his girlfriend go to different colleges and he accidentally mails her a videotape of his affair with another girl (instead of his video letter), so he and his pals hit the road to reach Texas and intercept the tape. Chaos ensues. But instead of a series of mindless visual jokes, the mishaps actually help grow the kids, and by the time the guy reaches the girl, he realizes he doesn’t really love her and when she breaks up with him, he’s okay with that. Meanwhile, the girl he had the “affair” with turns out to be a decent gal who really loves him. It’s not Shakespeare by any stretch, but it’s got its moments. It’s not quite as funny as I might have expected, but I actually liked that it treated the characters more seriously than most of these kinds of films.

Topic: [/movie]

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Sat, Sep 08, 2001

: Space Cowboys

Fun flick, though extremely predictable. Several military test pilots in the 1950’s are bumped out of the space program when NASA is formed and lose their chance to go into space. In the present, a Soviet satellite is threatening to crash to earth but its guidance system is so old no present astronauts know how to deal with it. So the original guidance system designer and his old teammates are called back and finally get their chance to go into space. The film is ninety percent casting: who can resist the teaming of Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and James Garner? Nothing new here, but the charisma of the stars makes up for the lack of plot.

Topic: [/movie]

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Wed, Sep 05, 2001

: World Cup Qualifier: U.S.A. at Costa Rica

Another sad day for the Americans. This time, they have reason to be sad. Before last Saturday the U.S. was tied for first place: after this game, they are in fourth and in serious danger of not qualifying for World Cup 2002. If the way they played in this game is any indication of future performance, they not only don’t deserve to go, but I would hope they don’t go: this was positively embarrassing. Coach Bruce Arena made the unadvised decision to play for a tie and put in 9 defensive players. The plan backfired when the U.S. collapsed under the tremendous Costa Rican pressure and gave up a penalty kick goal early. Then the U.S. needed a goal for a tie, but there weren’t enough U.S. attacking players on the field! From there it just got ugly: the U.S. hardly had any offense at all, gave up a second goal, and just looked panicked and beaten from the kickoff. It was one of the worst performances of the U.S. National Team I can remember (including France 98). Just terrible. The U.S. still has a chance for World Cup if they win the two final qualifying games (which are against weaker opponents). That’s good, in a way, because Arena won’t be able to play for the tie: he’ll have to go all out on offense. But the Americans need some solution at the back to shore up the defense and they desperately need a spark up front with injuries to superstars Clint Mathis, Josh Wolff, and Brian McBride leaving the U.S. woefully lacking in striker talent. Final: 2-0 Costa Rica.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Mon, Sep 03, 2001

: Fever Pitch

This British film is based on the book written by the same author as football, in world parlance). The main guy’s a huge soccer fan and his new girlfriend isn’t, and that’s the core conflict of the film. Nothing too much happens, but basically the guy learns to put sports in perspective in his life. Overall, pretty good, but a little light in substance. The one thing I found strange was that the girl was interested in the guy since she ostensibly hates everything about him. There wasn’t much explanation of why she liked him. The soccer fan in me appreciated all the football references, but even there the film seemed to try to be a bit mainstream and didn’t include enough soccer. Not outstanding, but interesting. The book’s supposed to be better and funnier; the film’s a bit too serious.

Topic: [/movie]

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Sun, Sep 02, 2001

: The Art of War

I wasn’t expecting much, but this was pretty good. A fun, mindless spy flick, with good action, neato high-tech gadgets, betrayal, and the requisite convoluted (and predictable) plot. Rent it if you’re in an action mood.

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Sat, Sep 01, 2001

: World Cup Qualifier: Honduras at U.S.A.

Very sad that the U.S. lost their first game at home in sixteen years. It was a harsh loss: Earnie Stewart was both the hero and the goat, scoring two goals but missing the penalty kick that could have preserved at least a draw. Honduras certainly made the U.S. back line look feeble, beating them dozens of times, and requiring terrific saves by various players and the goalkeeper. The Honduras penalty was very weak (Agoos fell down before the other player; I find it difficult to believe that could be a foul): probably just a make-up call for penalty given to the U.S. Final: 3-2 Honduras.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Fri, Aug 31, 2001

: Site Updates

I’m trying to decide what to do about updates to this site. I’m thinking of dropping the soccer coverage of each game I watch: there are just too many, and it takes a lot of time to write up about them. I’m thinking of just focusing on a few key matches, like World Cup qualifiers and Earthquakes games I see in person. Another idea is to post a summary of a weekend’s worth of games just listing the scores. We’ll see what I decide to do!

Topic: [/zweb]

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Fri, Aug 24, 2001

: Supercup: Liverpool versus Bayern Munich

What a game! Last year’s Champions League winner against the UEFA Cup winner. Liverpool’s off to a great start this season with a win over West Ham on two Michael Owen goals, and he did it again in this game. Early in the first half his cross set up a teammate, and Heskey finished a great chance of his own just before the break. He caught a through-pass then easily outran the defenders and finished around a diving Khan. As the second half started, Munich had reason to wear red: ten seconds in Owen received a long ball from the back, darted forward with it, and put it past Khan to give Liverpool a 3-0 lead. Wild! Finally, with 30 minutes to go, Bayern showed signs of life when one of the smallest on the pitch, Salihamidozic, put in a great header to get one back. Then, after a lull, they got another with 10 minutes left, with Jancker’s header. But even with Khan playing forward and leaving his goal empty, Bayern couldn’t do it. Final: 3-2 Liverpool!

Topic: [/soccer]

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Thu, Aug 23, 2001

: Tivo Upgrade

This week I received up Tivo 80GB hard drive upgrade ($229 from www.digitalrecorder.tv/). Installing it was a simple hard drive swap of the existing drive (this does, apparently, void my Tivo warranty). The most difficult part was reinitializing everything to my settings again. This time I connected Tivo to DirecTV as well as cable, which is great. Now Tivo has 88 hours of time to record stuff for me! It will record all my soccer games and I don’t have to worry about not having enough blank videotape (there are as many as ten on a weekend). Even better, everything is random access, so I can watch what I want when I want, not the order that I recorded it. I can also watch one thing while recording another, which is incredibly useful. A great upgrade.

Topic: [/movie]

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Wed, Aug 22, 2001

: The Way of the Gun

Strange convoluted mismash about idiot kidnappers who steal a pregnant girl who’s having a baby for hire. Distasteful. I don’t care about any of these people, let alone their miserable lives. Worthless.

Topic: [/movie]

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: Open Cup Semis

Two terrific semi-finals tonight in the Open Cup. D.C. lost to a surprising New England, who played very well, with two great goals by Andy Williams. D.C. had two players sent off. The first was harsh, but the second deserved. For both teams, the Open Cup is their season (though NE has a slight chance of reaching the playoffs). The second game was a repeat of last year’s L.A./Chicago clash, when Josh Wolff got a late game winner, and this year’s game was very similar. The two teams played hard and well, but neither could break the deadlock. In extratime, it was substitute Alexi Lalas who scored the winner for L.A., scoring with his head off a corner kick. Revenge is sweet! So the final will be on Oct. 27 between the L.A. Galaxy and the N.E. Revolution. Should be good.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Sat, Aug 18, 2001

: MLS: Chicago at San Jose

Terrific, high-paced game, with the Quakes having tons of chances (including a few sitters), but failing to capitalize. Donovan played well, but he can’t do it on his own, especially against a team as organized as the Fire. Still, though the Fire are arguably the best team in the league, San Jose looked good and weren’t overwhelmed, though their possession play was more frantic and haphazard than Chicago’s. Disappointing result, especially considering all the chances (the Fire’s Zack Thorton had nine saves), but nothing to be ashamed of. The Quakes lose their first home game since the home opener! Final: 1-0 Chicago.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Mon, Aug 13, 2001

: Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism

Author: Andrei S. Markovits and Steven L. Hellerman

Fascinating book. In sociology, “American Exceptionalism” is an area (usually political) in which the United States is completely different (exceptional) from the rest of the world. Author Markovits realized that sports is another example of American Exceptionalism: while nearly the entire world is united in watching soccer, American does not. And yet just as American ignores soccer, the rest of the world ignores the American “Big Three” of American football, baseball, and basketball. Why is that? Why is there such a sporting disparity between America and the rest of the world?

Even if you’re not a fan of soccer, or even interested in sports, this is a topic that should appeal to your cultural curiosity. A simplistic answer could be that Americans simply aren’t used to soccer and the rest of the world is unfamiliar with our sports, but Markovits goes much deeper. He explores the history of amateur and professional sports in the United States and you may be surprised to see how prominent soccer was in the U.S. a hundred years ago. I learned many things in reading this book, including the surprising fact that college football was more popular than professional until just a few decades ago. It was college football that displaced soccer — collegiate sports being the lead-in to the pros. College sports are another American exception since around the world, kids go from high school right into professional soccer. (In fact, now that the United States has a professional soccer league in Major League Soccer, students are doing just that, and it’s a good thing, since soccer in American colleges is played with completely different rules than “real” soccer; yet another American exception.)

If you are fascinated by the sporting culture, society in general, or wonder what the world will be like in fifty years as we become a truly global nation, you need to read this book. Understanding the sporting culture of both American and the rest of the world is an important step to understanding society.

Markovits doesn’t give solutions to the lack of enthusiasm Americans in general have shown to soccer, but he does conclude that there is hope. MLS is going well, and fulfilling its major goal in that it is producing new young American soccer stars like San Jose’s Landon Donovan which will (hopefully) help lead the United States to success on an international level. There’s also the advent of women’s soccer, which is wildly popular in the U.S., while — oddly — mocked in other countries. The future’s looking bright for American soccer, but only time will tell if soccer can become America’s fourth sport.

Topic: [/book]

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Sun, Aug 12, 2001

: Time Code

Author: Mike Figis

Unusual film. Like most of Figis’ films, it’s overlong, slow, and boring. In this case that’s a surprise, since it’s four films happening at once. The entire movie is an experiment: the screen is split into four screens in which multiple interrelated stories take place. Sometimes you see the same story from multiple viewpoints. Interesting idea, but since the whole film takes place in real-time, there are long periods in which nothing happens in one or more quadrants. For instance, in one, a woman waits in a limo, smoking and reading for thirty minutes. Yeah, that’s entertainment. The film’s multiple plots are interrelated and occasionally interesting, but the whole thing’s too disjointed to be a real movie. It’s an interesting experiment, but nothing more, and despite the presence of a number of big stars, it’s not a good film.

Topic: [/movie]

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Sat, Aug 11, 2001

: MLS: Tampa Bay at Chicago

Maesner started things off well for Tampa, but a penalty kick by Wynalda equalized things late in the half. He scored again in the second half — a header on a feed from Nowak — and Nowak added one of his own later, and that was the end for Tampa. Final: 3-1 Chicago.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: WUSA: New York at D.C.

Good game, with D.C. trying to act as spoiler to New York’s playoff hopes. But a goal from Elspeth late in the first half, followed by a nice finish by league-leading scorer Tiffany Millbret gave New York a decisive victory and ended San Diego’s playoff dreams. Final: 2-0 New York.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: MLS: Columbus at San Jose

Great game. Ronald Cerritos struck an amazing volley from 25 yards out to give the Earthquakes the early lead. But it was wiped out less than two minutes later when the Crew equalized. Joe Cannon made a great first stop, and the follow-up was blocked, but Cunningham managed to sneak the third try through the posts. Just before the half Cerritos struck again to give SJ the lead again, but once again, the Quakes gave up a goal minutes later, early in the second half. Warzycha’s free kick was deflected to throw off Joe Cannon and it went into the goal despite his hand touching the ball. After that the game seesawed, with both sides having good chances, including a couple great ones from Donovan. But in the end, even after ten minutes of overtime, the game finished a draw. Final: 2-2.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Fri, Aug 10, 2001

: Cast Away

I didn’t want to like this movie. It seemed like just another retread of Robinson Crusoe, and yes, that’s exactly what it turned out to be. I saw very little that I didn’t expect: I swear I could have written out the plot myself in advance. Much of the drama was forced and heavy-handed. For instance in the first few minutes Tom Hanks’ calls his girlfriend from Moscow and just happens to mention he needs a dentist appointment for a tooth that’s bothering him. “Oh great,” I immediately think, “we’ll be having an overly dramatic home dental surgery demonstration on the island.” Sure enough, that’s what happened (though I didn’t know he’d use an ice skate). At other times the direction is too obvious: Tom flicking a lighter that instantly flames to show how “easy” it is to get fire (in contrast to his having to create fire via friction). But despite all that, I did like the film. It was well done, though there was nothing earthshattering about it. Just a realistic story about a man surviving for years on a deserted island. Hanks did a good job; he blended into the role completely, which is excellent acting, but I thought his character was a little boring. The special effects and plane crash and storms were very well done. Overall, a decent film, though lacking in depth. It tries to explore some complex issues (like Hanks coming home to find his girlfriend married with children), but it doesn’t explore them beyond introducing the potential problems. For me, the film Alive did all this so much better with a positive message.

Topic: [/movie]

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Wed, Aug 08, 2001

: MLS: San Jose at New England

Awesome game! Coming off their incredible 5-1 win over Dallas, New England had some momentum, but San Jose doused cold water on that quickly. Coach Yallop changed the lineup slightly, starting Agogo and benching Cerritos, and the results were dramatic. Landon Donovan played like a pro, scoring two goals and two assists in the game. (The second was a penalty kick which he didn’t miss the way De Rosario did last week.) Agogo got two goals of his own (his first in a Quake uniform), and no rout would be complete without Manny Lagos scoring a goal. New England got their own penalty kick (roofed by Cate) on a questionable call against Lagos in the box. San Jose’s penalty was a handball by former Quake Mauricio Wright who was red carded. Two other red cards were given out late in the game, one to Alvarez of New England and one to Corrales of San Jose. But the Quakes were just glad to be back in form. Final: 5-1 San Jose.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Sat, Aug 04, 2001

: MLS: San Jose at Tampa Bay

A frustrating game for the Quakes. They fought and fought, but a combination of bad luck and great goalkeeping kept the ball from going into the net. A mistake at the back allowed Josh Keller a shot, which he finished, and Danny Pena chipped a head over Joe Cannon to put Tampa up by two. De Rosario had a chance to get one back on a penalty kick, but he didn’t strike it well and Adin Brown intercepted it to preserve the shutout. Brown was truly impressive, saving nearly a dozen sure goals in the game. Not a good result for the Quakes, who with their second loss in a row, need to get something going (though they remain in first place in the West). Final: 2-0 Tampa.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: MLS: Miami at New York

Cool game. Faria had three chances in the first ten minutes and finished one of them to give NY the lead, but Preki later equalized when he was set up by a poor NY clear and he drove in a perfectly flighted left-footed chip over keeper Tim Howard who was off his line. But Miami was having other problems: McKinley was sent off with a red card in the first half, and in the second Bishop followed leaving them down by two. Then Mark Chung got his second goal of the year and the game winner. Final: 2-1 New York.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: MLS: Chicago at Colorado

Okay game. Good “win” for Chicago: Colorado really needed the three points. They started off well with a goal from Balboa, but Jamar Beasley equalized and that’s the way it finished. Final: 1-1.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Wed, Aug 01, 2001

: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

Author: Stephen King (book)

I had no idea who Tom Gordon was when I got this (he’s apparently a baseball pitcher) but it turned out to be a cool book. It’s not about baseball at all, but about a little girl who gets lost in the woods and survives on her own. She survives in part because she gains strength by acting like her hero, Tom Gordon. Like him, she has “veins of ice.” Well written, quick reading, exciting, and fascinating. A surprising change of pace from King.

Topic: [/book]

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: MLS: Miami at D.C.

Good game. D.C. started early with Conteh scoring twice, including a back-heeled goal that was incredibly impressive. Miami came back in the second half with goals from Chacon and Serna to tie things. In the ten minutes of overtime that followed, neither team could score. Final: 2-2.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Sun, Jul 29, 2001

: Unbreakable

Author: M. Night Shyamalan

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Not bad. Interesting film, though nothing like

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Sat, Jul 28, 2001

: MLS: All-Star Game

I got to go to this game in person and it was an awesome party! San Jose’s Spartan Stadium was packed to overflowing (over 23,500 fans). The game ball was brought in (or should I say down) by two world champion “skysurfers” who dropped into the stadium from 10,000 feet. It was truly exciting to see these guys loop upside down just fifty feet above the heads of the fans and then swoop down onto the field and land right in the center of the green! Then, during the national anthem, two jets did a flyby of the stadium. Very cool. And then the game itself was awesome: San Jose’s own Landon Donovan was the MVP of the day, scoring three goals in thirty minutes. The West had a 4-0 lead but lost it late in the first half when the East suddenly game back with a series of goal to go into the lockers 4-3. After the break, the East’s Mamadou Diallo scored to equalize, then the West broke out again, only to give up two goals after that to trail for the first time in the game. It was looking grim for the West when in injury time Landon scored yet again to tie the game and set a huge record for the All-Star game (no player had ever scored more than two goals in the All-Star game before). The topper was when two players, Jim Rooney of the East and Donovan of the West both celebrated their goals by removing their shirts to reveal Brandi Chastain-style black sports bras! Great fun, great goals, and great soccer.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Fri, Jul 27, 2001

: Planet of the Apes

Director: Tim Burton

Interesting film. Good fun. Not intellectually taxing, but visually appealing. The plot’s a little simple for such a big budget flick, but it works, except the tacked on “complicated” ending weakens it. It’s not a remake, which I liked. Some good performances. Mark Walberg’s rather invisible as the human lead, and Helena Bonham Carter somehow still comes across as human. But Tim Roth as the evil ape is absolutely magnificent: completely believable as an ape with his frantic outbursts of rage, flickering eyes and rapid movements, and yet human in his greed and lust. He’s an evil character with little good (unlike so many “gray” evil characters in modern films), which is a refreshing change as you can root for his demise with no guilt. The film looks great, has a nice twist midway through, and the apes are definitely an improvement over the original film, but the film wasn’t as dark as I would have liked. At times the film reminded me of the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park — remarkably evil and frightening — but then it would make the apes do human-like things and they’d lose their power to frighten. Overall, it’s a fun flick and worth seeing if you liked the original and/or enjoy science fiction.

Topic: [/movie]

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Sun, Jul 22, 2001

: Little Nicky

Lame, lame, lame. Extremely unfunny story about the Devil’s son who must go to earth on a mission to save his father’s life. I think I laughed once, and that wasn’t much more than a smile at one joke. There were a few things that were mildly amusing, but the whole film just reeked of bad taste, bizarre performances, and weird humor. (To give you one example of the “humor,” “Doughnuts are fat free in heaven.”) Not worth ten cents of your time.

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Sat, Jul 21, 2001

: MLS: Dallas at Chicago

Strange game. Graziani put Dallas in front in the 11th minute, but Stoitchkov was given two penalty kick chances (the second one extremely questionable). He missed the first (sent it wide) but finished the second to equalize. In overtime his splendid cross went right to Wynalda’s head and he finished it perfectly, giving Chicago the Golden Goal win. Final: 2-1 Chicago.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: MLS: San Jose at Columbus

Good game, though the result didn’t go San Jose’s way. They played the better of the two teams, however, and deserved the win, putting in the most shots and really making Columbus work to keep them out of the goal. Perez caught San Jose out on a counter-attack in the 18th minute to put Columbus up, but Jeff Agoos’s determination and drive forced a goal in the final minutes of the first half to equalize. It looked like San Jose was building the momentum, but minutes into the second half, Elcock’s seemingly harmless run into the corner proved deadly when he drove a perfect shot from an impossible angle and it went into the net. A very impressive goal. Final: 2-1 Columbus.

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: MLS: D.C. at New York

D.C.’s hero and goat was Carrey Talley, who’s goal put them ahead, but who’s own goal gave the win to New York in the final minutes. Billy Walsh tied the game for the Metrostars. Final: 2-1 New York.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: MLS: Colorado at Tampa Bay

It was all Bravo as he scored twice in the first twenty minutes (the second on a rebounded post shot that John Spencer put in). Final: 2-0 Colorado.

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Wed, Jul 18, 2001

: MLS: Tampa Bay at Dallas

Tampa’s struggles continue as Dallas just dominates. Kreis got things going with a goal off an indirect free kick late in the first half, and then Graziani put in a rebound in the second to push the Burn forward. Rodriquez’s penalty kick put the result beyond question. Final: 3-0 Dallas.

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Sun, Jul 15, 2001

: Repo Man

Very odd film. I can’t remember why I rented it, except it was supposed to be a classic. A guess that meant a cult classic, because this is a bizarre and terrible film. It’s a dumb story about morons. The plot is a mishmash about a kid who gets a job repossessing cars, a group of UFO fanatics who hide alien corpses in the trunk of car (which, duh, gets repossessed), and secret government types out to hide the reality of aliens in our midst. The film’s got some humor (some of it’s just odd, some of it is a bit of social commentary) which helps, but it’s also got a nasty tone with lots of swearing and dark violence which is at odds with the silly humor. I found the movie uncomfortable to watch. I suppose I would have liked it better if I’d known a bit more of what to expect — sort of an Airplane crossed with The X-Files — but the film is a little too serious to be taken as a parody, yet to unrealistic to be a UFO or sci-fi film. It’s a strange beast. I can see how it could be a cult classic, and usually I love those, but this one I can do without.

Topic: [/movie]

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Sat, Jul 14, 2001

: Finding Forrester

I really wanted to like this movie about a brilliant 16-year-old writer growing up in the Bronx who finds out the strange old man watching him is really the eccentric and elusive writer William Forrester who wrote one Pulitzer-winning novel and disappeared from public view. The film had some good stuff, but was far too long and slow. I didn’t understand the basketball stuff: the director assumed I’d understand the game, but I couldn’t even tell which team was which. (I am the opposite of a basketball fan. I don’t even consider basketball a sport: it’s just a semi-athletic endeavor for tall people.) I didn’t understand the significance of things like the silly game-winning free throw at the end of the film — it just felt contrived to me. Perhaps I was missing something, or perhaps it really was dumb. I don’t know. I did like some of the writing-related material, but even there the film was on the weak side, not really explaining anything, not going into much depth. Basically the film tries to keep Sean Connery’s character (Forrester) mysterious and assumes that mystery equals profundity, but instead we get trite platitudes and boredom. Not a great film. Interesting, but could have been much, much better. I think I was more disappointed by the film’s waste of potential than disappointed by anything in the movie itself; on it’s own the film isn’t bad, but it saddens me to think how good it could have been.

Topic: [/movie]

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: MLS: D.C. at New England

D.C. definitely dominated this game. They started and finished with goals from 16-year-old Quaranta, sandwiched with a goal from Moreno. Sunsing gave New England a little respect, but it wasn’t enough. Final: 3-1 D.C.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: MLS: Colorado at Chicago

Excellent game. It was all Chicago. Colorado’s Robin Fraser was ejected just 30 minutes in for taking down Jamar Beasley. Still, somehow Colorado held on, with keeper Garlick putting up some great saves. Finally, with overtime looming, an amazing lob by the great Stoitchkov won the game for Chicago. A long bomb from Chris Armas at the back went over everyone except Stoitchkov, who let it bounce once, then chipped it over Garlick. Awesome goal. Final: 1-0 Chicago.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: MLS: Tampa Bay at San Jose

Great game! After a loss to Colorado last weekend, I wondered if San Jose would rebound (unlike Miami, which has lost several in a row). Rebound they did. San Jose clearly dominated play, and their defense was fairly solid, even without Jeff Agoos at the back (out with an injury). Former Mutiny player Manny Lagos got revenge with a 4th minute goal to put San Jose ahead. DeRosario puts forth a great through-pass to Manny who fights off two to get some room and slip it past keeper Adin Brown. Tampa fought back with some good chances of their own, but Cannon and San Jose kept the ball out of their net. In the second half, the Quakes poured on the offense, forcing Adin Brown in a dozen spectacular saves: he was easily the man of the match for the Mutiny. He stopped point-blank chances from Donovan, DeRosario, and Cerritos. Then the Mutiny got a break: a slight touch in the box brought down Diallo who equalized on the penalty kick. It looked like we were heading to extra time but then, with literally seconds left, Donovan ran toward the Mutiny’s back line with the ball. Faced with a wall of players he pulled back and ran away, only to suddenly turn and lift the ball with a delicate lob over the defense. Keeper Adin Brown saw the danger and started to come off his line, but he was too late: a darting Manny Lagos, brilliantly spotted by Donovan, ran onto the lob and headed it perfectly over the onrushing Brown to give the Quakes the win! Final: 2-1 San Jose!

Topic: [/soccer]

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: MLS: Miami at Los Angeles

Excellent game, though the league-leading Fusion are suddenly impotent for three games straight. Hernandez gets a header over keeper Rimando to put L.A. ahead in the 8th minute. Then a PK is awarded to Miami, but Hartman, amazingly, stops Preki’s left-footed blast! Miami had some good chances, but the post and Hartman kept them out. Late in the game Adam Frye wins a scramble in the box to slide a ball into the goal. In injury time, Jones is taken down in the box for a PK, and Vanney finishes it off. (One side comment on Vanney: I like him, but he had an instance just before the PK where he refused to give the ball back to the other team when they wanted to put the ball back in play quickly. Vanney childishly kept the ball away, which started a scuffle and nearly a fight, and of course after that the ref had to award yellows to both teams. Vanney should have been given a yellow immediately by the ref, or maybe even a red. I can’t stand that sort of ridiculous time-wasting, especially by a team that’s ahead by two goals. Obviously Miami shouldn’t have reacted violently to Vanney’s move, but part of the reason players do that is because the refs don’t punish that kind of time-wasting properly. If the refs would regularly send off players that do that, it would stop in a hurry, let me tell you. Once the ref blows the whistle on a play, the ball should just be left where it is and whichever team is supposed to take the kick ought to pick it up and put it back in play.) Final: 3-0 Los Angeles.

Topic: [/movie]

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Mon, Jul 09, 2001

: Vacation!

This week is my first back from a week’s vacation. What a trip! I left Thursday evening, June 28, and traveled to Oakland to pick up my cousin. We then drove that night to Fresno. The next day we got up at five-thirty and loaded all of my mother’s furniture and belongings into a U-Haul truck and started the drive for Oregon. We dropped my car off at my Uncle’s at Lawrence Livermore Labs where he works, then continued on our way. That afternoon, at about 3 o’clock, 40 miles south of Redding, we had a flat tire. Fortunately the U-Haul has double-tires, so it wasn’t the end of the world. We drove slowly and got off five miles down the road, found a telephone, waited on hold for 30 minutes, and discovered that there was a Goodyear tire place within a couple blocks! Minutes later the tire was replaced and we were on the road. But the adventure did set us back a couple hours. Since our schedule was blown, we took our time, stopping for a nice sit-down dinner at an expensive (but wonderful) Italian restaurant in Ashland, Oregon, and continued driving throughout the night. At about 2 a.m. we were rudely awakened by a dark flying shape which collided with the windshield of the truck! In retrospect we concluded it was a bat. It struck very hard, though it didn’t break the glass or anything, but it was so odd and startling, it woke us up for the rest of the trip. We finally made it to my grandfather’s home in Oceanside, Oregon (west of Tillamook and a mile from the beach) at five in the morning. Our journey had taken us a full twenty-four hours!

After that, we relaxed and slept, though we did have to unload and return the rented truck Saturday evening. Then it was time for golfing. Last summer I got the bug, and this summer I bought a set of clubs and decided to actually learn how to play. I practiced at the driving range, the petite nine-hole par 3, and the full 5300-yard 18-hole Alderbrook Golf Course. I played some golf just about every day, including the big course on four occasions. During the week I learned a great deal and my game went from over double-par to slightly under. The main thing for me was not my overall score (I’m too inconsistent for that to be affected yet), but to see if I could control my shots a little better and actually make a few shots. I did well in that respect, putting forth a few good drives, some nice irons (including a few tricky ones behind trees that got me out of trouble), and a few pitching wedge chips that surprised me! My best was a bogey on a par 4 400 yard hole where I managed, for my first time ever, three good shots in a row (I usually can’t hit good even twice in a row). I hit a decent 200+ yard drive, a nice long iron that put me near the green, and a chip that put me six or seven feet from the hole. Of course I missed the par put, but easily earned my bogey, and for me that was great golf. (I never did make par on any hole, but I did manage a few bogeyes, which is a good target for me.) I’ll practice this year and see how much better I am by my next Oceanside visit.

I watched a few movies on vacation, but I didn’t keep track of them for reviewing, so I won’t. Same for the patches of soccer I got to see. Mostly it was a chance to relax, enjoy seeing some relatives I hadn’t seen in a while, and play some golf.

I haven’t yet put up pictures from trip, but I’ll do so at some point.

Topic: [/travel]

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Sun, Jun 24, 2001

: MLS: D.C. at Tampa Bay

A wild game! Steve Ralston scored for Tampa in the 8th minute, quickly followed by Diallo in the 23rd, breaking his the three-game scoring drought (the longest in his MLS career). Newcomer Barclay managed to get himself open and onside on a run against the keeper and finished against Mike Amman like a pro. Three up in the first half it seemed like Tampa had it made, but Moreno’s header brought D.C. back early in the second half. That seemed like it, but then Armstrong was given way too much time to shoot and his long rocket cut the lead in half. Unfortunately for D.C., that was in the 90th minute. Final: 3-2 Tampa Bay.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: Miss Congeniality

Fun little caper. The trailers pretty much tell you the whole story, but Sandra Bullock is perfect for this kind of role, and some of the other casting (William Shatner and Candice Bergen) was inspired. Won’t tax your brain.

Topic: [/movie]

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Sat, Jun 23, 2001

: MLS: Columbus at Dallas

Good game. Columbus had never won in regulation at Dallas and it didn’t look like this would be the day. Graziani poached a goal early for the Burn, but a wide open Mike Lapper put in a header off a corner kick that tied the score. Then Columbus as dealt a harsh blow as Cunningham was ejected for stepping on an opponent — it looked to me like he was just stumbling for a place to put his foot. Playing a man down, Columbus was surely out of it: but then Brian West finished one of the best goals I’ve seen this year. He caught a long ball from the back, trapped it beautifully with one touch, and slotted it past the keeper so smoothly it was almost unfair. You have no idea how difficult that was! Terrific goal, which also won the game for the Crew. Final: 2-1 Columbus.

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: MLS: New York at L.A.

A rather dull game, which stayed nil-nil until three minutes to go. Then suddenly Cobi Jones put together a great run down the left side, dribbled past several defenders, and then crossing to a wide open Hernandez who finished it expertly. One minute later, Hernandez caught a long through ball and put that away as well: just like that, L.A. had won. Final: 2-0 L.A.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: MLS: K.C. at San Jose

Wonderful game. K.C. showed very little offense and it was all San Jose. Canadian DeRosario got some luck when the defender’s clear ricochetted off his body and into the goal, giving the Quakes the early lead. In the second half, defender Nick Garcia (rookie of the year last year) took down DeRosario when he was on a breakaway, and Garcia was justly given the red card as he was the last man. That really opened things up for San Jose, who poured on the offense, but somehow K.C. kept the ball out of the net for a good while. It was injury time when things finally broke down and Junior Agogo’s run down the right left Ronald Cerritos open on the left, and Ronald didn’t miss finishing Agogo’s cross. Final: 2-0 Quakes, who are unbeaten in 11 straight games!

Topic: [/soccer]

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Wed, Jun 20, 2001

: World Cup Qualifier: Trinidad & Tobago at U.S.A.

The U.S. got off to a terrific start with Ante Razov, who threatened mightily against Jamaica when he was put in for the last few minutes, got the start. Just two minutes in he scored on a terrific 40-yard feed from Jeff Agoos (Captain of the San Jose Earthquakes). Minutes later Ernie Stewart had a one-on-one with the keeper and flubbed his shot, but made up for in the 20th minute when he stole the ball from a defender and ran on to score. The rest of the game the U.S. defended well, and T & T weren’t without their chances. Man of the Match was Agoos, who stopped many of T&T’s attacks. Great game, great result, and the U.S. has now almost clinched a spot for World Cup 2002. Next they face a huge game against Mexico in Mexico City on July 1. I can’t wait. Final: 2-0 U.S.A.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: MLS: Colorado at New England

I wasn’t expecting much, but this was a terrific seesaw game! Chris Carrieri, the number one draft pick this season, just traded to Colorado from San Jose, put in a weak shot from 25-yards out. Somehow the keeper let it slip under him and into the goal. Minutes later, John Spencer’s header had the Rapids up by two. But wait: Carrieri’s poor back pass gave the ball to Johnny Tores who took the one-on-one with the keeper well and finished with a goal in the 26th minute. Things were quiet until late in the second half when another burst of goals was produced. Chronopoulos got the equalizer for the Revs, then Asad put New England up by one with two minutes to go. It looked like a sure win, but Colorado came back with an injury time goal from Bravo. Great stuff! Final: 3-3.

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Mon, Jun 18, 2001

: MLS: Tampa Bay at Columbus

Tampa really needed a win and got the opposite. Carlos Valderama put his foot in his mouth and got himself ejected in the 13th minute by harassing the ref and so Tampa had to play almost the whole game one man short. But Columbus was sparkling. Dante Washington was awesome, scoring a hat trick. He started in the 30th minute, then Duhaney added a goal ten minutes later. Quill got one back for Tampa in the second half and for a moment it seemed like Tampa might regain control of the game. But a terrific goal when Washington pulled keeper Garlick out and back heeled the ball right into Cunningham’s path who put the ball into the empty net broke Tampa’s spirit. Washington hot his second a few minutes later, followed by another from Cunningham. Finally, Washington topped things with the completion of his hat trick and the Crew wiped the floor with poor Tampa. Final: 6-1 Columbus.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: MLS: L.A. at Miami

Terrific game. L.A. has never lost at Miami, but this time one expected Miami’s form to prevail. But L.A. didn’t back down from Miami’s offense. Serna got an early goal for Miami, but Lalas headed in an equalizer for L.A., followed by an Ian Bishop own goal to give L.A. the lead. Then Cienfuegos put in a brilliant goal: he caught the pass with his left foot, then stuck into the roof of the net with his right. Amazing. It looked all L.A. then, but in the second half, captain Jim Rooney’s diving header brought Miami back within one. It looked dicey for a bit, but Miami kept pressing and L.A. went back on their heels. Rooney was again involved, sending forward a great pass behind the defense that Serna just blasted into the far corner. Great play, terrific equalizer, and Miami have still only lost one game all season! The result’s also great for San Jose, who maintain their 3 point lead in the Western Division. Final: 3-3.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Sun, Jun 17, 2001

: MLS: D.C. at K.C.

Excellent game, with another surprising win for D.C. No goals until the second half, but then Conteh got one followed by 16-year-old Guaranta a minute later. He got a second goal ten minutes later to really hammer home the victory. What’s up with former champs K.C.? They’re starting to struggle. Final: 3-0 D.C.

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: MLS: San Jose at New York

A good nil-nil result, though I wish San Jose could have scored late to earn the three points. At least they keep their unprecedented unbeaten streak going. Final: 0-0.

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: Moving Weekend

This weekend I was in Fresno helping move all my parents junk in preparation of a move to Oregon. Amazing that a house can have so much stuff. Heavy stuff, too! I’m very tired.

Topic: [/travel]

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Sat, Jun 16, 2001

: World Cup Qualifier: USA at Jamaica

Good game, with some great saves by both keepers. Jamaica never loses at home, but the U.S. got the tie they wanted. Just a couple more wins and the U.S. is through to the World Cup 2002. The U.S. looked good, but I’m a bit worried about the scoring drought. We’ll see how they do on Wednesday against Trinidad and Tobago before I get too worried. Final: 0-0.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Wed, Jun 13, 2001

: MLS: D.C. at New York

New York took an early lead with Faria’s goal, but the Metro’s Tim Howard kept them ahead with a number of great saves. But Jamie Moreno equalized for D.C., and then rookie Lisi sent forward a terrific through-ball for Conteh, who stayed onside and cleverly slid the ball under Howard for the winner. Final: 2-1 D.C.

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Sun, Jun 10, 2001

: Pat and Mike

Mild Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy romantic comedy. Hepburn’s a marvelous athlete with Tracy as her grumpy manager and of course they eventually fall in love. Rather dated in a lot of ways (i.e. Hepburn apologizes for wearing pants instead of a dress, but explains they are easier for playing sports).

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Sat, Jun 09, 2001

: MLS: L.A. at San Jose

Awesome game! The two Western rivals battled for supremacy and the new ‘Quakes claimed victory. Landon Donovan scored midway through the first half, and Ian Russell extended San Jose’s lead ten minutes into the second. L.A.’s Sasha Victorine scored a great goal off a header off a corner kick to make the final twenty minutes interesting, but Landon’s second goal in injury time put the matter beyond doubt. San Jose’s terrific form is not an accident: they are playing incredibly well this season. Final: 3-1 San Jose.

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: MLS: Columbus at Chicago

Good game. Jamar Beasley scored late in the first half for the game’s only goal. Final: 1-0 Chicago.

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: MLS: K.C. at Miami

Terrific game, with Miami showing off their great offensive power. Chacon started things with a goal in the 22nd minute. Things went a bit dry, but in the second half Serna came alive with a quick goal followed by Preki picking up loose ball in the penalty area. K.C. keeper Tony Meola injured himself on a save and was substituted. McKeon finished off a penalty kick to give the Wizards a bit of hope, but that was quickly dashed by second goals from Chacon and Serna! Final: 5-1 Miami.

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: MLS: D.C. at Dallas

A slaughter: Rhine’s heel pass set up Suarez, then he got his own fifteen minutes later. Martinez really set the margin when he scored late in the game. Final: 3-0 Dallas.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Thu, Jun 07, 2001

: International Friendly: USA vs. Ecuador

An okay game, but neither team could score. The U.S. has a real problem playing without injured Josh Wolff and Clint Mathis. Final: 0-0.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Wed, Jun 06, 2001

: MLS: Dallas at Tampa Bay

Kreis won this game on a free kick in the 15th minute. Final: 1-0 Dallas.

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Sun, Jun 03, 2001

: WUSA: Bay Area Cyberrays at San Diego Spirit

Okay game, though a little boring. Late in the second half substitute Little, playing only her third game of the season, cooly finished a one-on-one with the keeper and gave Bay Area the win.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: MLS: New York at New England

What’s wrong with New York? They’ve sure slacked off as of late. They didn’t play great today, though they did score in the first half. But they were outplayed: only their goalkeeper kept them in the game, making a half dozen terrific point-blank saves. In the final minutes, Ritchie Williams took down Jonny Tores for a penalty kick, which Cate finished well to tie the game in the 90th minute. In extra time, New England had two or three great chances, but once again were stopped by the keeper. Final: 1-1.

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Sat, Jun 02, 2001

: MLS: San Jose at Colorado

Great game! Just a dozen minutes in Landon Donovan scored his second goal of the season. He somehow managed to control an awkward through-ball that got to him in the box. He second touch was a slight chip which passed over former San Jose keeper David Kramer and into the goal. Thirteen minutes later, Colorado gave up a soft goal to Jeff Agoos. The defender was given space above the box and he shot a bomb from twenty-five yards out. It shouldn’t have been a problem for Kramer, but he misjudged it and it bounced right in front of him (always a problem for keepers) and into the goal. In the second half, a poor pass from Donovan (his foot stubbed the ground as he kicked) gave the ball to Colorado. The Rapid player kicked the ball forward into space for Spencer who was then one-on-one with Cannon, and the Scottsman got the second goal in two games against the Quakes. But San Jose didn’t panic and played well despite Colorado’s pressure, and finished with the win. Final: 2-1 Quakes.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: MLS: L.A. Galaxy at Columbus Crew

Boring game. Neither team looked great. The goals came in a sudden burst a few minutes into the second half. L.A. scored and a minute later Perez tied it for the Crew. After that, the teams resorted to their tactic of not scoring again, even after the game went into overtime. The Crew tried, but couldn’t figure out the formula. Final: 1-1.

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: MLS: K.C. at Tampa Bay

Poor Tampa’s really been struggling without striker Mamadou (he’s still on suspension). Today they got back defender Steve Trittechuh who broke his fibula just before the season started. Amazingly, eleven minutes in — his first minutes this season — he scored a goal! His header put Tampa in front and things were looking good. But just nine minutes later a simple defense mistake let in K.C. and Gomez equalized. Early in the second half, another slight mistake gave Lassiter a tiny chance and he took it instantly, burning Tampa for the goal. After that K.C. just held on for the win. Final: 2-1 Kansas City.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: MLS: Chicago Fire at D.C. United

Odd game: fun, but blighted by some strange referee decisions. Moreno scored early for D.C. and they held the lead and looked far better than Chicago for most of the game. But then a poor clear and an odd bounce gave Eric Wynalda a slight chance and he finished it beautifully to tie the game. Amazing, that was Chicago’s first shot of the entire game! Then came a very questionable penalty kick award for the Fire: a handball in the box in which the ball was kicked at the player. Kovalenko put the penalty kick away. Later, a similar call was not made on the other end: why can the ref at least be consistent? Final: 2-1 Chicago.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: Hackers

Fun film, though like most techno films, takes a great deal of license with reality. I don’t like the stereotype that hackers are criminals (true hackers are computer experts, not kids with mischevious tendencies). Fun to see faces like superstar Angelina Jolie in an early role.

Topic: [/movie]

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Tue, May 29, 2001

: La Liga: Alaves at Real Madrid

Fun game, but poor Alaves can’t do anything after their UEFA Cup final failure. Madrid came out and stomped on them. Raul started things with a goal in the 22nd minute, followed just a minute later by Guti. Then in the second half, Hiero and Helguerra added goals, and Raul got a second in the final minutes. Wow! Final: 5-0.

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Mon, May 28, 2001

: Serie A: Inter vs. Lazio

Supposedly this was an Inter home game, but played on a neutral site because of problems with Inter fans. I don’t know if that helped or hurt, but it wasn’t that great of a game until late. Crespo scored late in the first half, and for the longest time it looked like Inter was done for, but suddenly an amazing goal from Dalmat tied the score in the 90th minute! Cool finish. Final: 1-1.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Sun, May 27, 2001

: MLS: Colorado at Columbus

I wasn’t too excited about this game because both teams are so low in the standings. In the past, that meant that the teams weren’t very good. But surprisingly, both Columbus and Colorado are excellent teams: their positions in the standings just represent how strong the league has become. This game was terrific: Brian Maisonneuve got Columbus off to a great start with a goal in the fourth minute, but not long after that Balboa’s shot cruelly hit the post and refused to go in to tie. Minutes later, Balboa got another chance and this time he finished it. Then John Spencer scored to put Colorado up a goal. Shortly after the half Ross Paule scored to give the Rapids a two goal lead. Then it all fell apart as Colorado stopped going forward and tried to just defend. Perez got an easy goal when he was open at the top of the box and received West’s cross from the endline. Then West got his own goal in the 82nd minute to tie the score. A through-ball put Brian McBride one-on-one with the keeper, but his shot was blocked by a terrific save by David Kramer. But the rebound went right to West who finished beautifully, giving Kramer no chance on a second save. In overtime, Columbus almost scored right from the gate, and then Colorado had a terrific chip by Bravo that hit the post. In the end, though, the tie score held. Final: 3-3.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: WUSA: Washington Freedom at New York Power

Good game! Bai Jie finished nicely just three minutes in to put Washington up, and it took New York forever to get the equalizer. Late in the game Aarones was put in for her first appearance of the season, and seconds later the six-foot giant used her heat to finish a great cross from Sara Whelan. It looked like that was it, but then a stunner: in injury time the Freedom had a corner kick which Mia Hamm took. Her cross went through the legs of Bai Jie who screened the keeper and into the goal! Final: 2-1 Washington.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: Rosewood

Interesting historical drama about a real-life racial massacre that occurred in 1923 in the deep South. My main criticism is that the “plot” was predictable, but since the story’s true, I guess that’s not much of a knock against it, though the director could have done more to focus on unique and more interesting aspects of the story. Basically, a white woman gets beat up by her white lover and blames it on an unknown black man, and in the lynch mob mentality of the time, dozens of blacks are rousted and murdered. The film’s long (142 minutes), dark, and slow, though it has some good performances. Many of the characters are well-defined, gray, not black or white, which makes for a more interesting and realistic story. It’s also more violent than I expected, at times almost a war between blacks and whites.

Topic: [/movie]

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Sat, May 26, 2001

: MLS: San Jose at Chicago

Good game with plenty of end-to-end action. San Jose looked good at times, but Chicago generally dominated. It was pouring rain and the ball was difficult to control. The first half was a lot of wild play. In the second half, both teams started to apply some serious pressure. Finally, San Jose broke. On a corner kick, as keeper Joe Cannon rose to intercept, a teammate headed the ball over his head and Cannon fell to the ground. The ball went right to Andrew Lewis who faced an empty net: he buried it. There was still plenty of time, but San Jose couldn’t capitalize on any of their chances (and there were some good ones). Finally, the game went down to the final minutes. “Don’t give up,” I said to the TV, though I knew it was hopeless. Fortunately, the team didn’t. They kept pressing forward, trying for that unlikely last minute goal. With less than a minute left, the ball went to Donovan at the top of the box. The pass was behind him, and hard, and he had Fire on his back: so he slid into the ball, driving it out toward a teammate. That happened to be Zak Ibsen running onto the pass. He blasted it — and I excepted it to zoom 40 miles over the net the way most such charges do — and instead it went like a bullet, 25 yards into the net! In the final minute San Jose had tied the game! Neither team scored in the overtime, though San Jose had a number of key chances (Chicago didn’t really threaten) to win. Great game, essentially a win for San Jose who maintain their lead in the Western Division. Final: 1-1.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: MLS: Miami at Tampa Bay

Tampa without Mamadou Diallo is like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without peanut butter and jelly. The poor team just can’t accomplish anything. (Mamadou is on a four-game suspension for attacking a fan that insulted him. This is his second serious suspension this season: let’s hope he learns to control his temper.) Anyway, this game was all Miami. After a few post shots and other great chances squandered, captain Jim Rooney buried a deceptive free kick where Preki didn’t take the shot but rolled the ball to him. Minutes later, Chris Henderson finished, and in the second half, Diego Serna got on the board twice to silence his critics. His first goal was hilarious: he hit the post in the first half and this shot did also, but the rebound came right to his head and he headed it over the keeper and into the empty goal. Final: 4-0 Miami.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Thu, May 24, 2001

: Serie A: Intermilan at Parma

Another rout for Inter. Brazilian Junior scores twice, early and late, and Di Vaio puts one in in the 74th minute, to give Parma a decided three goal lead. Christian Vieri brings one back in injury time, but that’s much, much too late. Final: 3-1 Parma.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: MLS: New York at Kansas City

For the first time this year I was impressed by Kansas City: they actually attacked and didn’t just defend. New York couldn’t score, and they kept K.C. out of the net. It looked like a zero-zero draw for sure. Then, in injury time, new striker from Jamaica, Lowe, headed in a great ball to give K.C. the win. Final: 1-0 K.C.

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Wed, May 23, 2001

: Friendly: Bayern Leverkusen at D.C. United

Now this was a fun game. The big German club, coming over the U.S., plays D.C. United. D.C. had the first chance, but Berbatov actually finished his in the 14th minute to put Leverkusen up by one. Their lead didn’t last long, though, as fifteen minutes later teenager Bobby Convey scored for United. Then Brdaric brought Leverkusen back, but a Carey Talley penalty kick for D.C. tied the score again. In the second half, Chris Albright scored off a keeper rebound to put D.C. in front, but the lead only last five minutes because Barbatov got his second. Later, he got his third of the game and the game-winner. The Germans win, but not without a fight and some great U.S. play. Final: 4-3 Leverkusen.

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: Champions League Final: Bayern Munich vs. Valencia

Rather an annoying game: quite boring at times, and the only goals came from penalty kicks (all of them questionable). Valencia was awarded one just three minutes in and Medieta put it away. Bayern had one of their own not long after, but missed! It looked like it was Valencia’s day, but shortly into the second half Bayern were awarded another penalty and Effenberg did not miss. The tie game went into overtime, and then to penalty kicks. The penalty kick contest was dramatic and exciting, as the Bayern missed their first kick and it was touch and goal for a while. There were a number of misses, but going into the fifth and final round, the teams were tied with two misses each. That’s when my tape of the game ran out: I’d only recorded 45 minutes extra and that wasn’t enough! Arrgggg! Well, I found out later Bayern won, and though it almost seems unfair that one team should be so successful, I did feel they deserved it slightly more, if only because Valencia deliberately wasted time in the overtime, wanting the game to go to penalty kicks. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. I lie offensive teams best. At least Valencia played better in this year’s final than last years (where they were dreadful). Final: 1-1, Bayern Munich win on penalty kicks.

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Mon, May 21, 2001

: Serie A: Roma at Bari

What a great game! Candella started things off with an amazing juggling demonstration: he juggled the ball away from a defender, spun, knocked the ball up a second time to cue it, and then with his third touch, volleyed the ball into the net from twenty yards out! Definitely a goal of the year candidate in my book. Batistuta extended Roma’s lead just before the end of the half, and in the second half, defender Cafu dove to catch the ball off the ground with his head, putting it into the goal. Batistuta got his second just before the end of the game to really pour on the pain for poor Inter. Inter saved a little pride with a 90th minute goal from Spinesi to prevent the shutout, but it was still a royal drubbing by the league leaders. Final: 4-1 Roma.

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: EPL: Manchester United at Tottenham Hotspur

After winning the league a few weeks ago, Man. U. has little to prove and they’ve shown it by losing their last few games of the season. They went down early to Spurs on a goal by Korsten, but Paul Scholes quickly tied it. Midway through the second half, though, Korsten got his second and Ferdinand put one in to trounce the champs. Final: 3-1 Spurs.

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: La Liga: Alaves at Barcellona

Coming off their loss to Liverpool in the UEFA Cup, Alaves looked tired and spiritless. Barcellona, however, looked much more like the champs they’re supposed to be. They scored early on a terrific Marc Overmars goal and held on for the 1-0 victory. Final: 1-0 Barca.

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Sun, May 20, 2001

: Shrek

Terrific film! Wonderful performances, great writing, amazing animation. Has stuff for the whole family. At a few points it’s a little “adult,” but kids won’t get those jokes anyway (at least we hope). I especially liked the way the film incorporated hip modern elements with traditional fairy tale elements. It was also cool the way it mocked Disney stuff (this picture’s made by Dreamworks). But the core of the film — the story — was excellent. Well worth seeing.

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: Bundesliga: Bayern Munich at Hamburg

Strange game: all the goals came in injury time at the end of the game. Ninety minutes of nothing, and then bam! Goals. The title race came down to this game: if Bayern lost and Schalke won, Schalke would have the title. The games were played simultaneously, and when Schalke won and saw that Bayern were losing, they thought they’d won. Bayern had gone down to a late goal from Barbarez. With only seconds left, it seemed like Munich was done for. But a free kick was awarded outside the box: surely they couldn’t score on the last play of the game, could they? Unbelievable, they could. The Swede, Patrick Andersson, took the kick. Somehow it made its way through about twenty players and into the goal. That tied the game and gave Bayern the German Championship for the third year in a row. Ridiculous, but the ball doesn’t lie. Even stranger, that was Andersson’s first goal of the year! Final: 1-1.

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Sat, May 19, 2001

: MLS: New York at San Jose

Terrific game I got to see in person. Though the crowd was small (about 7,000) it was great to see San Jose play well at beat the number one team in the league. The first goal came in the 26th minute. Manny Lagos somehow managed to keep the ball from going over the end, beat a couple defenders, and put in a shot. The shot was blocked but the rebound fell right to Wade Barret, who put in a great curling shot! I was right by that sideline and got to see the goal close-up: wonderful. New York didn’t really pressure San Jose much (the Quakes’ midfield successfully stopped attacks from starting), but keeper Joe Cannon did make a few key saves, including on diving block right near where I was sitting. Very exciting. In the second half, a through-ball from Mulrooney got to Landon Donovan, who calmly took the ball into the penalty box and slotted the ball home from the penalty spot for a historic goal: Landon’s first in MLS. This guy might only be nineteen, but he plays like a veteran. I’m so impressed with how he handles himself on the field, not just in skill, but temperment, spirit, and attitude. He’s a real star. Final: 2-0 San Jose.

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: MLS: Kansas City at Chicago

Chicago dominated, with an early goal from Kovalenko followed by a terrific score by Nowak. In the 70th minute Nowak was ejected for retaliating, but Chicago managed to maintain their lead. Final: 2-0 Chicago.

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: 28 Days

Sandra Bullock vehicle about a party animal who’s sentenced to drug rehab (for 28 days). I’m a Bullock fan, but this was a weak concept: Bullock’s too sweet to be believable as a drunk, and the script is TV movie of the week quality. Not terrible, just predictable and bland.

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: EPL: Leeds at Leicester City

Good game. Leeds’ players got all the goals. Alan Smith scored twice, early and late, and Harte scored on another brilliant free kick. Ferdinand put the ball in his own net to give Leicester a goal. Final: 3-1 Leeds.

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Wed, May 16, 2001

: UEFA Cup Final: Liverpool vs. Alaves

Unbelievable game. Liverpool started things off in an ideal fashion, with goals from Babbel (4th minute) and Gerrard (16th minute). But then Ivan, just put in the game minutes earlier, gave life to Alaves in the 28th minute. Late in the first half Liverpool regained domination when Owen was brought down in the box and McAllister didn’t miss his penalty kick. But minutes into the second half, Alaves cut the lead down to one with a goal from Moreno. Just two minutes after that he scored again to equalize! Wow! But that wasn’t near the end. Robbie Fowler was inserted for Liverpool and proved successful, scoring in the 73rd minute. For a long while it looked like that would do it, but with just one minute left in regulation Cruyff headed the ball off a corner kick to tie the score again and push the game into overtime. Neither team dominated in overtime, and both had their chances. It was “golden goal” — whoever scored would win — and then the Spanish team had Mango sent off for his second yellow. Minutes later, their captain was also sent off for his second yellow. With only nine men and several minutes left, it was looking like Liverpool might be able to do it. On the ensuing free kick, McAllister’s curving ball caused a Spanish player to jump up to head it away. Unfortunately, his goalkeeper was right behind him and the ball was flicked over him and into the goal for an own goal and a loss of the Champions League final! Wow, nine goals! A tie game for 115 minutes of play! Incredible, very exciting, but while I was impressed by Alaves, I felt Liverpool deserved the win. This is their third major cup this year (earlier they won the Worthington Cup and the FA Cup), making it a triple: the first ever (of this combination) for an English team. Manchester United may have won the league, but everyone will remember 2001 as the year of Liverpool. Great game. Most impressive was that almost all the of the goals were awesome ones of skill, not the results of defensive blunders. Certainly a cup final to be remembered for decades. A classic! Final: 5-4 Liverpool.

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Tue, May 15, 2001

: Serie A: A.C. Milan at Inter

Terrific derby of the two Milan clubs, though not much of a contest as Inter was absent. Comandini scored his first two goals ever in Serie A in the 3rd and 19th minutes (the second was a great flashing header), followed by Guilito early in the second half. Then Shevchenko got two to keep himself at the top of the scoring chart, and Serginho, who was undoubtedly the man of the match with three assists, got a well-deserved goal for himself. What a disastrous blowout for Inter! Heads are going to roll over this result. A.C. will be gloating for years. Final: 6-0 A.C. Milan!

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Mon, May 14, 2001

: Bundesliga: Shalke at Stuttgart

Boring game, with both teams overly defensive. Stuttgart’s Balakov scored a great goal in injury time to give them the win and save them from relegation, and probably ending any change Shalke had of winning the league. Final: 1-0 Suttgart.

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: La Liga: Rayo Vayocana at Barcelona

Poor Casey Keller gave up a boatload of goals, but there was no question he was one of the best players on the pitch. Barcelona was just too strong for poor Rayo. Luis Enrique scored just seven minutes in, but Michel equalized about ten minutes later. After that, though, it was all Barca. In the second half, Rivaldo’s brilliant chip beat Keller, and that was followed by Enrigue’s second. Then Marc Overmars got one-on-one with Keller and finished, and to really pour salt on Rayo’s wounds, Petite scored on a wonderful volley in injury time. Why didn’t Barca play like this all year? Final: 5-1 Barcelona.

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Sun, May 13, 2001

: MLS: Chicago at New England

I can’t believe it, but New England finally gets their first points this season, beating mighty Chicago. First, NE was awarded a questionable penalty which Cate finished. In the second half, Nowak scored a marvelous goal from an impossible angle to tie the game. But neither team could break the other and the game went into overtime. Just a fifteen seconds in, Okoh scored to give New England the win. Final: 2-1 New England.

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Sat, May 12, 2001

: Nurse Betty

Strange comedy: considerably more violent than I expected, and slow to get started. Betty’s a Kansas housewife who’s a fan of a TV soap opera doctor. When she witnesses her jerk husband being killed by hit men, she flips out and thinks the soap is real and she’s in love with the doctor. So she travels to Hollywood with the hit men on her trail. What follows is hilarity as the actor thinks she’s just playing a role to get on the soap, but she thinks everything’s real! Pretty funny (and touching) once it gets going. The first half hour or so isn’t much of a comedy.

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: MLS: L.A. Galaxy at New York Metrostars

Undoubtedly Clint Mathis is the most exciting and best American player to emerge from Major League Soccer. In this game he assisted on the first goal by Villegas, then got his own great goal later. The guy’s unstoppable: a goal or assist in his last 12 games in all competitions. He now leads MLS with 7 goals. Final: 2-0 NY.

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: MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at D.C. United

Wow, what a great game! Ian Russel got things going for San Jose in the 36th minute with a fantastic 50-yard run up the right wing, beating several players and finishing beautifully. In the second half, Denton returned the favor, scoring on an impressive run of his own. Minutes later, Moreno gave D.C. the lead on a penalty kick. It seemed like D.C. was gaining momentum, but before they could take advantage, Manny Lagos equalized for San Jose! The game continued level, with D.C. really pushing and San Jose seeming unable to beat the D.C. defense. Worse, the Quakes went down a man when Ibsen was ejected with ten minutes left. But Manny Lagos became the hero when, in injury time, he scored the game winner! San Jose not only jumps to ten points with the win, but because L.A. lost their game, San Jose is tied with them and Kansas City, though because of goal differential, the Quakes are in first place! Final: 3-2 San Jose.

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Fri, May 11, 2001

: Serie A: Juventus at Fiorentina

Great game! Juventus was unstoppable, with Zidane playing awesome. He got the first goal in the 24th minute, followed minutes later by Tudor’s header. Rossi got a goal back for Fiorentina just before the half ended, but after that Juventus shut down the gates. Then they got an insurance goal from Trezeguet with a minute left in regulation. Excellent win. Final: 3-1 Juventus.

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Wed, May 09, 2001

: MLS: New England Revolution at D.C. United

What a crazy game! Poor New England: they just can’t get it together. Six games and six loses! And they face mighty Chicago on Saturday. Abdul Thompson Conteh sure loves the Revs: he’s scored all his goals against them. Six in two games! Here he had a first half hat trick: then added a forth in second half. A complete rout. New England’s defense is just non-existent. Ironically, in another game played at the same time, L.A.-Tampa Bay, Mamadou Diallo also scored four goals (that game ended 4-4, though I didn’t see it). Why in the world did San Jose get rid of Conteh? Final: 5-0 D.C.

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: Champions League: Real Madrid at Bayern Munich

After their win in Madrid, Munich was sitting pretty. Then Elber scored on a header eight minutes in to really put them ahead. Madrid came back on a Figo shot in the 18th minute, but when Jeremies’ grounder went in fifteen minutes later, it was all over. Bayern wins on a 3-1 aggregate goal difference. Final: 2-1 Munich.

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Tue, May 08, 2001

: Champions League: Leeds at Valencia

Well, we knew it was going to be an uphill battle for Leeds, but their fantasy season finally came to an end. They couldn’t even score, and rarely looked dangerous, in fact. After Valencia’s first goal by Sanchez (which looked suspiciously like he scored with his hand), Leeds had to press more and more forward, and gave up space at the back. Sanchez got his second just minutes into the second half, and Medieta got one on a counter when he was left on his own against the Leeds keeper, Nigel Martin. Just too much for Leeds to come back against. A disappointing way for Leeds to drop out. Final: 3-0 Valencia.

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Mon, May 07, 2001

: Serie A: Brescia at Lecce

Welcome to the Roberto Baggio show! He scores on a lucky bounce just five minutes in, then in the second half puts in a goal “Olympico” — straight into the net from the corner flag! Amazing! He finishes his hat trick with a penalty kick, and Brescia go home happy. Final: 3-0 Brescia.

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: La Liga: Espanyol at Barcelona

Boring game. Lots of battling but no goals. Final: 0-0.

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Sun, May 06, 2001

: MLS: D.C. United at NY Metrostars

What a great game! D.C.’s Moreno scored twice: a penalty kick in the first half and a tap early in the second. For a while, it seemed that New York was done, but suddenly they came to life. In the 79th minute Clint Mathis continued his incredible play of late, picking up a scrap ball and putting it in the net. With just two minutes left, Faria’s volley from the top of the box beat former Metro Mike Ammann to tie the score. It looked like overtime was in the cards, when out of nowhere, Villegas brought the ball from the end line and into the penalty box. Somehow he wasn’t stopped. He passed the ball to a teammate who’s shot was blocked, and Villegas got it again and put it away for the injury time game winner! Incredible come back! Fantastic game. Final: 3-2 New York.

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: Serie A: Roma at Juventus

One of the biggest games of the year in Italy, this one was worth the wait. An odd game. Juventus took off right from the start with two Zidane goals. Okay, he didn’t score the first, but he definitely assisted Del Piero’s 4th minute header. Two minutes later, it was Zidane, alone at the top of the box, who rifled in a drive to put Juventus up by two. Roma fought for the rest of the game, but it looked like they were never going to break the formidable Juventus defense. Then Japanese star Nakata was brought in. Just minutes later, in the 79th minute, he puts in one of the best goals of the year: a bomb from long range that nearly punched a hole in the back of the net. Amazing! Nakata was involved again, in injury time, when his shot was blocked by the keeper. The rebound, however, was loose, and Montella pounced on it to tie the score! Terrific game! Final: 2-2.

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: MLS: Kansas City at Los Angeles

I must admit, while K.C. does put up the results, I don’t like their defensive style. Here they scored early and against the run of play on a penalty kick by McKeon, and that pretty much was all the offense they wanted to show. L.A. kept pushing and pushing, but failing to finish. (K.C. Keeper of the year last year Tony Meola had a lot to do that!) Finally a penalty kick the other direction tied matters, but L.A. couldn’t move ahead and K.C. seemed happy with a tie. But in a wonderful twist, Olympian Danny Califf scored in overtime to give L.A. the win! Ha ha, K.C. Go home empty handed! Shots: 17-2 for the Galaxy, who just dominated. Final: 2-1 Los Angeles.

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: Waking the Dead

Semi-interesting film about a young lawyer who’s goal in life is to become a Senator. He meets a radical young activist and falls in love with her, but then she’s killed in a car bombing. Years later, as his bid for Congress is looming, he’s still haunted by her memory, and begins to see her. Is he dreaming or is she real? The movie leaves us in doubt, and seems to think that’s clever, but frankly, after the first interesting sixty minutes, the film’s boring.

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: WUSA: Bay Area Cyberrays at Philadelphia

Wow, what a crazy game. Goals are finally flooding the WUSA. I kept switching between this match and the New York Power at North Carolina one (which finished 3-1 New York). This game was tied 1-1 at the half, but in the second half Bay Area stepped forward with a goal, but then lost it, giving up two goals to lose the game 3-2. Fun, and it’s good to see scoring. Final: 3-2 Philadelphia.

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Sat, May 05, 2001

: World Cup Qualifier: Argentina at Bolivia

Wild game. After a nearly goalless first half, Bolivia’s Paz put them ahead with a diving header. But minutes later Crespo equalized for Argentina on a corner kick. In the second half, it was all Bolivia. Are great volley from Colgue and a header from Botero put them two ahead and surely out of reach of Argentina who showed very little offense. But in the final few minutes, they did! Crespo got his second in the 89th minute, and Sorin found himself unmarked in the box off a free kick to score the equalizer in injury time. Amazing come-back! Final: 3-3.

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: Bundesliga: Bayern Munich at Bayern Leverkusen

Interesting game, but both teams struggled offensively. Finally Munich’s Santa Cruz got a goal in the 87th minute. Final: 1-0 Munich.

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: MLS: New England Revolution at San Jose Earthquakes

Well, San Jose’s up to their old trick again: giving up critical goals at the end of the match. I saw this game in person, and it was a wild one, though it started slowly. New England keeper Sommer was magnificent: making almost a dozen fantastic saves in the game. Dayak scored a half hour in, but I happened to have turned my head and missed the goal! Where are the replays for a live game? In the second half, San Jose continued to pour on the offense. DeRosario got a goal when Sommer made his first mistake and dropped the ball. Then Ibsen put the Quakes up 3-0 with ten minutes to go. New England had shown little offense and it looked like it was going to be a rout, but knowing San Jose, I didn’t hold my breath. Sure enough, with just two minutes left, former Quake Wright did like he did last year, scoring for his new team. His header gave the Revs some hope and they pushed forward. Wade Barrett fouled Sunsing — easily the Revs’ best player — in the box to give up a penalty. Joe Cannon blocked Johnny Tores’ penalty kick, which was awesome, but in the confusion surrounding the rebound, Barrett managed to knock the ball into his own goal! Fortunately, that was the end of the scoring. A good win for San Jose, but it was a shame to give up two easy goals so late. Final: 3-2 San Jose.

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: EPL: Leeds at Arsenal

Unfortunately, not a good game for Leeds. They went down early on a goal by Ljungberg, followed by a goal a few minutes into the second half by Wiltord. Ian Harte brought Leeds back a little shortly thereafter on a marvelous free kick, but that was all they could do. Final: 2-1 Arsenal.

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Fri, May 04, 2001

: Bundesliga: Stuttgart at B. Dortmund

Essentially a victory for struggling Stuttgart, though I can’t figure out what happened to Dortmund’s normally potent offense. Final: 0-0.

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Thu, May 03, 2001

: Anatomy of a Murder

Cool film of a complex murder trial. An Army lieutenant kills the man who allegedly raped his wife. Jimmy Stewart — in one of his best performances — is the lawyer with no career that takes the case. Until the very end of the film you don’t know if the man is guilty or not. Was the rape real or not? Was the husband really temporarily insane or was the shooting an act of revenge? This film has some of the best dialog I’ve ever heard: excelllent, excellent, excellent. Even the minor characters speak with intelligence and personality. Lee Remick, as the sexy wife, is really good. Complex, gray film, without any answers. Worth seeing more than once.

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Wed, May 02, 2001

: MLS: D.C. United at Miami Fusion

Preki got the first goal on a penalty kick, but when D.C. got the same chance, Moreno missed! Albright finally got D.C. a goal, but then Jim Rooney got another game-winner to add to his impressive collection. Final: 2-1 Miami.

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: Champions League: Valencia at Leeds

I hoped Leeds would do well in this one, and though they dominated significantly, they couldn’t actually score, making the away game in Spain a tough challenge. Hopefully they can do it, though. Final: 0-0.

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: World Cup Qualifier: Columbia at Venezula

Crazy game. Venezula’s Rondon got things going for the home team with a great header 22 minutes in off a terrible giveaway by a Columbia. Things were quiet for a long time, but finally the home team got another in the 82 minute by Arango on a shot from the top of the box. It seemed like mighty Columbia was going to fall. Then, suddenly, things changed. Bedoya’s header one minute later gave Columbia hope, and then Bonilla’s goal and a wonderful through pass equalized things! Who would have thought Columbia could come back in six minutes after showing no offense the whole game? Final: 2-2.

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: EPL: Chelsea at Leeds

I missed part of this game, but got to see the goals very late. Leeds dominated, but couldn’t score, until Keane’s shot in the 85th minute rebounded off the keeper and back to him, allowing him to walk it in unchallenged. Viduka’s volley three minutes later put the matter beyond doubt. Final: 2-0 Leeds.

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: Funny Games

Strange Austrian suspense movie about a family on vacation terrorized by a couple loser-types. What’s interesting is the polite way they do it: they pretend to be innocent but obnoxious guests. For instance, they initially come over to borrow some eggs, and a clumsy guy “accidentally” knocks the cell phone into the sink full of water (which cuts them off from the rest of the world). Slowly the family comes to realize these guys are horrible and evil, but by then it’s too late. Directed with style and acted with surprising realism.

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Tue, May 01, 2001

: Snow Falling On Cedars

A murder trial told in reverse. There isn’t much to the plot and the film’s too slow, but interesting nonetheless. It’s set in an island off the coast of Washington, back around WWII, and deals with the conflict between the resident Americans and Japanese-Americans. Good premise and could have been dramatic, but it’s too slow and not enough happens.

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: EPL: Ipswitch at Charlton

Svensson got a header for Charlton just 12 minutes in, but Reuser got a bizarre equalizer eight minutes later.

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Mon, Apr 30, 2001

: Serie A: Roma vs. Lazio

The Rome derby started off slow, but became excellent. The first goal came in the second half, from Batistuta, on an assist by Delvechio. Minutes later, Delvechio got one of his own. Then Lazio fought back with a brilliant volley from the top of the box by Nedved. There were a number of other great chances, but that was it for the goals. Awesome game. Final: 2-1 Roma.

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Sun, Apr 29, 2001

: Bundesliga: Leverkusen at Kaiserslautern

Boring game: Neuville scored in the 10th minute on a great free kick, but nothing much happened after that. Final: 1-0 Leverkusen.

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: WUSA: Washington at Carolina

Excellent game, very impressive. It started off with a great goal from Canadian international Burtini on a header off a corner to put the home team up. Just a few minutes later, Mia Hamm was almost put out of the game by a rough tackle: it looked like she might be seriously injured. She was off on the sideline for a good ten minutes while they checked her out, but finally decided her knee was okay. Back in the game, her presence made an immediate difference, but Washington couldn’t score. Things were looking grim for the visitors until very late in the game when Hamm took a quick free kick from near the halfway line and sent in a gorgeous through ball for Pretinha, who ran onto it beautifully and scored. With the just eight minutes left, the game got intense. Finally, in the 90th minute, with just seconds left, Mia Hamm took a free kick from outside the box and beat the keeper for the game winner! Final: 2-1 Washington.

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: Serie A: Napoli at Regina

I wasn’t expecting much from this clash from the bottom of the table, but it proved an interesting game. Tiny Regina just thrashed Napoli. Dionigal scored just five minutes in, followed by a Marazzina goal at the end of the half off a great through-pass. Zanchetta scored early in the second half to really set things up for Regina. The goalkeeper Taibi saved a penalty kick. Napoli got a little bit of pride back in the 59th minute with a header from Edmundo, but that was the best they could do. Final: 3-1 Regina.

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: Farewell, My Concubine

Very strange and amazing film. It’s Chinese, and tells the tale of a two opera performers from childhood through adulthood, before and during the Communist revolution. I can say right out I don’t understand traditional Chinese opera: it’s an inflexible medium of rigid tradition. (For instance, in one scene, a man is criticising a performance because the actor playing the concubine didn’t take the right number of steps on his way to the king.) The film is complex, rich, and brutal. Worth seeing, but be prepared for a strange adventure.

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Sat, Apr 28, 2001

: MLS: New England Revolution at Miami Fusion

Good game, though a little slow. Harris showed some great moves for the Revs, but couldn’t put together a series of them to actually score. Miami didn’t do much and looked weak, but with just ten minutes to go, Chacon got open and scored yet again (he’s currently in the lead for most goals in the fewest minutes played in MLS). Miami held on to give the Revs their fourth defeat and zero points for the season. I hope that bodes well for San Jose as the Revs come to visit next weekend and the Quakes are hungry for a home win. Final: 1-0 Miami.

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: MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Kansas City Wizards

Good game! The Quakes looked very good, far more dangerous than defensive-oriented K.C., and newcomer and potential superstar Landon Donovan got his first start in MLS and did great. He didn’t score, but was dangerous, and I was very impressed with his play: he definitely does not play like a 19-year-old. Some of his through-passes, traps, and shots showed incredible control and audacious confidence. It’s going to be awesome to see him develop at San Jose: I predict good things. San Jose’s defense held together much better at K.C. than in previous matches, though toward the end of the game the Wizards did pressure and almost scored on several occasions. Keeper Joe Cannon made some good saves to keep the Wizards out, and some hard defensive work saved the day on a number of occasions. Things were a little hairy at times but the Quakes didn’t panic and seemed confident: I hope they play as well next week at Spartan Stadium. Though neither team scored, I’d put this down as a win for San Jose: a valuable point on the road and a stop to that dreadful two-game losing streak. Final: 0-0.

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: MLS: Dallas Burn at NY/NJ Metrostars

You want goals? We’ve got goals! New York dominated this rivalry last year, and it looks like they’re going to do so again this year, though the Burn aren’t going to take it without a stiff fight. Villegas scored 22 minutes in to give NY the lead, followed by a wonderful goal from Mark Chung in the 32 minute. Tab Ramos beat his man to bring the ball along the end line, but instead of crossing into the box the way all the Burn defenders expected, the passed the ball in the opposite direction to an onrushing Chung who connected fully with his left foot. I was expecting a wild shot over the goal as usually happens but instead the ball went low and sped like a bullet right into the back of the net! Amazing goal, possibly a goal of the year candidate. Terrific stuff. In the second half it looked like NY might have some problems when Comas was sent off, but then Clint Mathis (who scored nine goals last year against Dallas, including one game were he had five, an MLS record) got two in seven minutes! One of them was a 75-yard run that possibly ranks as the best goal ever in MLS. Minutes later, in the 72nd minute, Farrer got one for the Burn, but it looked like it was way too little. But a penalty kick in the 90th minute gave Dallas hope, but time ran out before they could do more. Oh yeah — I almost forgot to mention Chung’s second half penalty kick which Matt Jordon saved. The result could have been even worse for Dallas! Final: 4-2 New York.

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: MLS: Chicago Fire at Tampa Bay Mutiny

Great game, though I was disappointed that Mamadou Diallo couldn’t play because of last week’s red card. The hero of Wednesday night’s USA game was back for more, this time for his club team. Early on Josh Wolff pressured the Tampa defense and they brought him down in the penalty arc. A free kick was given and Wolff took it, curling the ball in — a splendid goal! Can anyone stop this kid? Well, Demmin can: minutes into the second half he brought down Wolff with a terrible tackle from behind, nearly crippling Wolff. Josh had to leave the game with a sprained ankle. Unfortunately, Demmin only got a yellow card. His partner, John Maessner, however, wasn’t so lucky, drawing a red for dragging down DaMarcus Beasley by his shirt while on a breakaway. That pretty much finished it for Tampa: they had very little offense before, and playing ten men against Chicago’s defense isn’t easy. Final: 1-0 Chicago.

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Thu, Apr 26, 2001

: Champions League: Galatasaray at Real Madrid

Well, the Turkish club had a chance coming into this game, but Real was having none of it. They easily won, scoring three goals in the first half! Raul got things going with a goal fifteen minutes in, followed by Helguera in the 28th, and Raul got his second with ten minutes left in the half. After that Real just had to hold on for the win. They advance to the semi-finals. Final: 3-0 Real Madrid.

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Wed, Apr 25, 2001

: World Cup Qualifier: Costa Rica at U.S.A.

Awesome game! The U.S. played very well, with a number of quality chances, including a sure chip goal from Josh Wolff that was dramatically cleared off the goalline with a bicycle kick from the Costa Rican captain Parks. The U.S. dominated the first half, but Costa Rica forced Keller to make a few good saves in the second half. But the great news for the U.S. was Wolff’s 70th minute goal. On the corner kick the ball bounced around in the box and came awkwardly to Clint Mathis. It looked like it hit his hand, though it obviously wasn’t intentional (his hand was up in the air before the ball came to him), but the slight deflection may have helped as the ball dropped away from the keeper and right to Josh Wolff’s feet. He barely need to touch it to put it in the net. The U.S. defended well after that, though there were some nerve-racking moments, but the Americans held on. The victory means the U.S. has — incredibly — won all three of their World Cup qualifiers so far (seven more to go) and with nine points is well on their way to a slot in World Cup 2002. They’re leading their group by five points! Final: 1-0 United States.

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Tue, Apr 24, 2001

: La Liga: Deportivo at Celta Vigo

Excellent game! The first half finished nil-nil and I thought this was going to be a low-scoring affair, but both teams came alive in the second half. Valeron scored early for Deportivo, but minutes later Djorovic equalized on a great goal. Then Mostovoi put in a blast from outside the box that beat the keeper and that was all Celta needed. Final: 2-1 Celta Vigo.

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Mon, Apr 23, 2001

: Serie A: Juventus at Parma

A surprisingly good game, very entertaining and competitive, though no goals were scored. Final: 0-0.

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: EPL: Coventry City at Ipswitch Town

Poor Coventry: they seemed like they were finally getting into form, but they were blasted by Ipswitch. Reuser scored early, in the 20th minute, and in the second half Wright’s shot was deflected to put Ipswitch up by two. Coventry tried hard, but they couldn’t score. Final: 2-0 Ipswitch.

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Sun, Apr 22, 2001

: A Scanner Darkly

Author: Philip K. Dick

A remarkable book. Definitely the kind you could read fifty times and still not completely understand. I’ve never done drugs, but if I had, I’m sure this book would describe the experience exactly. It’s set in the future (the 1990’s) and deals with a narc out to find drug dealers. Fred goes under cover as Bob, a drug addict. As part of his cover he must take Substance D, also known as Death, a powerful drug that has a side effect of splitting the mind into duelling consciouses. Slowly Fred (and Bob) lose the ability to distinguish reality. Worse, Fred’s secret identity is a secret even to his police bosses, and they assign him to monitor and keep tabs on… Bob. Yeah, that’s right, he’s to narc on himself! Eventually Fred can’t tell that he is Bob and the book gets really bizarre as paranoid Bob does things to avoid Fred and Fred does things to stop Bob… and they’re the same person! Incredibly powerful book on the dangers of drug abuse, but Dick doesn’t play God: he doesn’t judge these people, but he also doesn’t protect them from the consequences of their actions. From the opening line, “Once a guy stood all day shaking bugs from his hair,” to the end, this book is a trip. In some places it was so funny I had to stop reading to literally wipe tears of laughter from my eyes (like the part where the druggies argue that they were cheated on the ten-speed bike they bought because it only has seven gears, a two-setting gear and a five-setting gear for a total of seven). In other places it was so hard to read I couldn’t get through more than a few paragraphs without having to put the book down and breathe for a bit. The novel is hilarious, scary, and sickening, occasionally all three at once. It’s also a profound exploration of reality, unreality, consciousness, perception, personality, identity, and the meaning of existence. Very complex, very bizarre, very sad. Dick had his own drug problems, so this book speaks from experience. At the end he includes a list of close personal friends effected by drugs (some forming the basis of various characters in the novel), all of whom are either dead or permanently damaged by their habit. Frightening. He uses the analogy of a group of children playing in the street, being smashed and slaughtered by cars that pass, yet the children keep playing in the street, mindless of the deadly consequences of their actions. They just wanna have fun. Chilling. Highly recommended.

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: MLS: Colorado Rapids at L.A. Galaxy

Rather a boring affair. There were lots of valiant runs but neither team really had that many dramatic scoring opportunities, though the keepers did make a few key saves (especially Colorado’s Brown). Hendrickson got the game’s only goal late in the first half. Good result for L.A., but they should have won 3-zip. Final: 1-0 Galaxy.

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: First to Die

Author: James Patterson

A surprisingly good book. I’ve grown cautious with Patterson’s books: they are uneven in quality, but this one is very good. It deals with a serial killer who kills couples on their wedding night. But what makes the story interesting is Patterson’s protagonists: a group of females in various positions of authority (an assistant D.A., a Medical Examiner, a reporter, and a police inspector) who form their own unofficial “murder club” in pursuit of the killer. They all are intelligent, driven women, bonded by their sex, and feeling discriminated against by their male-dominated careers. The leader of the group is Lindsay Boxer, the police inspector in charge of the case, and as the book opens and the case begins, she learns she has a fatal disease. Unusual and interesting. Nice twists as far as the plot goes, though occasionally a little obvious. The reader’s given a little too much extra information about the crime at times, making the slower police investigation seem a little tedious, but overall the writing is decent, the pace breakneck, and the characters mostly three dimensional. The ending’s pretty good, but the epilogue — which changes everything — feels tacked on and tacky, like some editor told Patterson to include it. It’s way too short for the information it conveys and trivializes the rest of the novel. Patterson does leave the door open for a sequel with the murder club gals leading the charge: it will be interesting to see what he comes up with next. Good quick read.

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: MLS: New England Revolution at D.C. United

Not a bad game, though rather strange scoring. Abdul Thompson Conteh (formerly of San Jose Earthquakes) scored on a header just 9 minutes in for D.C., but late in the half when D.C. was supposed to go up two goals after a penalty kick was awarded them, Calley’s shot was saved by Jurgen Summer. The second half was a reverse of the first half. Two minutes in New England was awarded a penalty and Harris took it. Mike Ammann blocked the shot, but the rebound went free and a charging Okoh pounced on it to tie the score. Then, toward the end of the game, it Conteh who scored again, this time on a volley in the box off a corner kick. Great action in the second half, both keepers performing well, especially Ammann, who made several spectacular saves to keep D.C. in the game. Unfortunately for the Revs, this is their third defeat in three games, though they didn’t play that badly. Final: 2-1 D.C.

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Sat, Apr 21, 2001

: WUSA: New York Power at Atlanta Beat

Impressive debut of the new American women’s soccer league. Apparently games are shown every Saturday at 9 a.m. Pacific on cable channel TNT with a WUSA highlight show airing at 8 a.m. on the Discovery channel. This game was New York, with Tiffeny Milbrett, against Atlanta, with Cindy Parlow and China’s Sun-Wen. The game was pretty good. No goals, but some good action, good defending, a great crowd (over 20,000), and lots of enthusiasm. For the start of a new league, it’s definitely impressive. We’ll have to see how things continue. Final: 0-0.

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: EPL: Leeds at West Ham

Cool game. Leeds got going early when Keane slipped one past the keeper, and just into the second half former West Ham player Rio Ferdinand got one against his old club. Leeds probably would have increased their lead, but Batty was sent off a minute later, so they just held on to the end. Final: 2-0 Leeds.

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: Bundesliga: Hamburg at Leverkusen

Tough battle with Hamburg desperate for some points and Leverkusen needing a win to keep themselves in contention at the top of the league. Hamburg scored first on a deflected free kick by Danish international Tofting, but Leverkusen equalized in first half injury time by Kirsten off a deflected cross into the box that dropped for him. The second half was more battling but no more scoring. American and my personal favorite Frankie Hejduk made a saving tackle on a Hamburg run but found himself staring at his second yellow (therefore a red). A rather harsh call. But ten men Leverkusen didn’t give up any more goals and the game finished a draw that doesn’t help either team. Final: 1-1.

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: MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Miami Fusion

Good game, though not a good result. Early on San Jose held their own, but toward the end of the first half everything fell apart. The first two goals were giveaways. In the 39th minute Miami put a cross through the box and a Quake defender deflected into his own goal. Minutes later, in first half injury time, poor defending left newcomer Chacon open for a split second and he took advantage of his chance, scoring his third goal in three games for Miami. In the second half, Ian Russell got a goal for San Jose, but I didn’t get to see it because Fox Sports Bay Area cleverly edited out San Jose’s only goal of the game “due to time constraints.” Yes, the baseball game preceeding the Quake’s game went too long so they showed the entire first half, then jumped to the 52minute of the second half, skipping the Quake’s only goal. Makes perfect sense. After all, what local people would want to see San Jose score? Aren’t we all Miami fans??? Oh well, I suppose it was a good goal. The goal gave San Jose drive and they played much better in the second half, really pressuring Miami and came very close to equalizing on several occasions, but couldn’t quite make it. Miami looked dangerous on several counters, but Joe Cannon make some excellent saves and the defense came to the rescue on other occasions. Good game overall for the Quakes: much better than last week’s fiasco. Despite the result, I now have a little hope for the season (especially considering that Donovan and Goose were absent for national team duty). Final: 2-1 Miami.

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: MLS: Tampa Bay Muntiny at New York Metrostars

Great game! It got off a little slow, at least for Tampa, who kept giving opportunities to New York. Then in the 28th minute Alvarez got sent off to drastically change the game. With only ten men, New York should have faltered, but instead they dominated, continuing to find holes in the Muntiny’s defense. Ramos broke down the left, beat his man and put in a great cross, and Comas finished. The score really should have been 3-0 or 4-0 by the second half, but man of the match Scott Garlick kept out a half dozen of New York’s shots. In the second half, the Mutiny took their time, but finally scored on a marvelous long-range strike by Ralston in the 74th minute. That broke the ice, and four minutes later, Diallo’s cross to a sliding Josh Keller, who hadn’t been playing well to that point, finished it off to take the lead. But Diallo, who’s collision last year with New York keeper Mike Ammann fueled the New York-Tampa rivalry, reacted badly when beat by Mike Petke and tackled him. He got the ball and I thought he only deserved a yellow, but it was a bad tackle and the ref immediately produced the red. With both teams at ten men, it seemed like New York had some hope, but when the pushed forward, Tampa countered beautifully, and Curtis scored on a breakaway. Final: 3-1 Tampa Bay.

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: Serie A: Fiorentina at Intermilan

After struggling a bit recently, Inter is suddenly back. Vieri got things going with a goal just twelve minutes in, followed by a penalty kick in the 40th minute after Seedorf was taken down in the box. Minutes later came the beauty: Dalmat (who assisted on the first goal) just blasted a shot from forty-some yards out that curled into the inside of the far post and into the net. Stunning! A goal to be talked about for years! In the second half, Fiorentina really turned on the pressure, but it was Inter, on the counter, who scored. Sukur got the ball at the top of the box and curled it over the keeper. Fiorentina got one back with Bressan’s header, and with 11 minutes left, Chiesa got another with a chip over the off-his-line Frey, but despite the slight comeback, one just felt that this was Inter’s day. Sure enough, they managed to preserve the win. Final: 4-2 Inter.

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: The Music Lovers

Director: Ken Russell

Not a pleasant film, but unquestionably a remarkable one. This tells the story of Tchaichosky, the Russian composer. Russell deals with the man’s complicated past and fantasies but an excellent technique of interchanging and intercutting fantasy sequences and reality. For instance, when T meets his future wife, her real image is intercut with his fantasy image, and he falls in love with her… or is he in love with his fantasy? The story is dark and brutal. The composer’s a genius, but his personal life is a mess. There are strong hints that T was homosexual and that his marriage fell apart because it was a lie. After marriage, he couldn’t compose until he went away from his wife. She slowly descends into madness, and the final scenes of her living in the madhouse are truly sickening. (I felt sorry just for the actors, not to mention the characters.) T himself drinks contaminated water and contracts cholera and dies horribly, the way his beloved mother died. Very bizarre, very sad. It’s a movie about people torn with conflicting passions, secret fantasies and ideals, and the unforgiving nature of genius. Complex, but distasteful.

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Fri, Apr 20, 2001

: Bundesliga: Bochum at B. Dortmund

Poor Bochum’s at the bottom of the league, with Dortmund in the logjam at the top, and this game showed why. Ricken scored in the 18th minute, followed by Heinrich at the 29th, two impressive goals from Reina in the second half, and finished off with a penalty kick by Stevic. Final: 5-0 Dortmund.

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Thu, Apr 19, 2001

: UEFA Cup: Barcelona at Liverpool

The first game ended 0-0, so all either needed was a win. Liverpool had the most chances, but couldn’t finish. Finally a somewhat questionable penalty was called against Barca at the end of the half, and McAllister put it away. That was the only the goal of the game. Not great football, but impressive defense on the part of Liverpool, to hold Barca’s potent offense to two shutouts. Final: 1-0 Liverpool.

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: UEFA Cup: Alaves at Kaiserslauten

Kaiserslauten was slaughtered in the first leg 5-1, so they needed a ton of goals to eke this one out. Instead, they got routed a second time! French World Cup winner Djorkaeff started things off well for Kaiser with a goal just seven minutes in, but after that it was all Alaves. Alanzo got one in the 23rd minute, followed by two from Vucko late in the second half. Ganan added one with three left to really rub it in. Final: 4-1 Alaves (9-2 on aggregate)

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Wed, Apr 18, 2001

: Champions League: Manchester United at Bayern Munich

Going into the second leg with a loss at home, United needed to not give up any goals. So of course that’s exactly what they did just five minutes in, on Elber’s shot. United showed hardly any offense and toward the end of the first half, Scholl added another, giving United a real mountain to climb. They came partway back just into the second half with a great goal by Ryan Giggs, but it was too little, too late. Munich held on to advance, and United’s out of Europe for this season. Final: 2-1 Munich.

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Mon, Apr 16, 2001

: Serie A: Parma at Atalanta

A hard-fought game, but Parma went ahead in the first half with a goal by Milosevic and that was all they needed. Final: 1-0 Parma.

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: EPL: Liverpool at Everton

Wow, what a game! One didn’t know who would win this rivalry until the final seconds. Liverpool started things off with a great run by Heskey who finished beautifully in the 5th minute. But Ferguson equalized for Everton just before the half. In the second half, Babbel scored early to put the Reds back on top, and they should have been two goals ahead but Fowler missed his penalty kick. The ref (who had a number of controversial decisions) sent off Biscan in the 79th minute putting Liverpool down a man, and shortly afterward awarded Everton with their own penalty, which Unsworth completed to tie the score. The tie kept well into injury time, when almost four minutes in, McAllister’s long free kick curled just inside the near post for a brilliant goal. Seconds later the whistle blew and just like that Liverpool was victorious! Wow, what a finale! Final: 3-2.

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Sun, Apr 15, 2001

: Bundesliga: Schalke at Bayern Munich

A critical game. No league is tighter than the German Bundesliga, with three teams tied for second place, all one point behind Munich. Schalke is one of them, and a win puts them in first place. Bayern had six starters serving suspensions for this game (all those reds and yellows in last week’s Dortmund clash) so things looked good for Schalke. But then just three minutes in a long through-pass put Jancker in on goal alone, and he beat the keeper. A dream start for Munich. But Sand scored in the 14th minute to equalize, and after a scoreless thirty minutes more, it seemed like a draw might be in order. But minutes into the second half Sand scored his second, putting him at the top of the Bundesliga scoring chart. His pal Mpenza tried and tried, but kept getting foiled by Munich’s Oliver Khan in goal. Finally, he and Sand did a give and go, but Mpenza couldn’t reach the final ball. It was loose, in the box, and Sand pounced on it for the hat trick! So there’s a new leader in Germany, and Schalke are in good position to be the champs. With so few games left in the season, the trophy is theirs to lose. Final: 3-1 Schalke.

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: MLS: D.C. United at Chicago Fire

ESPN thoughtfully pre-empted the first half, only showing the second, but since there were no goals in the first half, I guess I didn’t miss much. Wolff scored early in the second half, and after several near misses and post shots by Kovalenko, he got his goal in the 78th minute. D.C.’s frustration reached its peak when their captain and best player, Etcheverry, lost his temper and was red carded in injury time. Not smart. Final: 2-0 Chicago.

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: MLS: New York/New Jersey Metrostars at Colorado Rapids

Great game. Wide open with gobs of shots by both teams. Both keepers were excellent, stopping shots right and left, several amazing saves. Alvarez got on early for New York, and though Clint Mathis had a bunch of chances (he was voted man of the match), none of his would sink in (he hit the post several times, and other shots were saved). Late in the game, with seven minutes to goal, a frantic Colorado finally breached the NY defense. A clever backheel gave the ball to veteran Balboa and he ran onto it and smacked it home, a real blast into the upper corner, giving the keeper no chance to save it. The game went into extra time, and there were many heart-stopping saves, but no more goals. It was a well-deserved draw. Final: 1-1.

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: Manhunter

Author: Michael Mann (book by Thomas Harris)

Director: Michael Mann

Good film adaptation of the book. Faithful. The ending’s a little weak, descending into a stereotypical action shoot-out thing, but overall classy and well done. This is the film that first brought Hannibal Lector to the big screen and though he doesn’t have much screen time, he’s well done by Brian Cox. Some of the best psychological stuff from the book doesn’t get translated to the screen as well as I’d have liked, and the film seems mild compared to Silence of the Lambs, but it’s certainly worth seeing.

Topic: [/book]

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Sat, Apr 14, 2001

: MLS: Dallas Burn at San Jose Earthquakes

I don’t know what happened since last week, but the Quakes came out asleep for this game. I went to the game expecting a victory — the Burn isn’t the strongest team, especially away, and with San Jose’s form last week, it should have been a decisive home opening victory. Instead it was a miserable loss. The game was slow, the Quakes spent more time passing the ball back to their own half than going forward, and there were very few quality chances. The ref blew the whistle every time two players brushed against each other, and for some odd reason, play was completely halted every time there was an injury: no stretcher was brought to carry the injured guy off so the game could keep moving. The result was a real stop-and-go affair, and San Jose never got any momentum going. The Burn played mostly defense (SJ keeper Cannon only had to make one save all night and that was in injury time), but scored in the 18th minute on a counter-attack. That turned out to be all they needed as San Jose couldn’t get a shot on target to save their life. Quite pathetic. Worst of all, the stadium was packed. It was nearly sold out. They even ran out of programs. I got one of the last $15 tickets while some of the people behind me had to pay for $25 seats because that’s all that was left. Though the game was crappy, the event itself was a lot of fun. The fans were in good spirits (most were used to San Jose losing), the atmosphere was entertaining, and the fireworks show at the end of the game was spectacular, almost worth the price of admission alone. (They cleared out one end of the stadium and most of the fireworks exploded just a hundred feet or so above the stadium so the flash lit up the entire place and the booming explosions hurt my ears. Very cool.) As far as soccer goes, let’s hope this was just a fluke. Final: 1-0 Burn.

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: Serie A: Intermilan at Juventus

The first half was boring, with no goals and no much offense by either team. I don’t know what the coach said at halftime, but suddenly Juventus came alive. Tacchinardi scored six minutes into the second half, followed by a goal from Inzagi four minutes later. Eight minutes after that Del Piero put in a beauty and it was officially a rout! Vieri managed one for Inter on a penalty kick, but no one seriously expected Juventus to give up a three goal lead. Final: 3-1 Juventus.

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: EPL: Middlesbrough at Arsenal

A rather bizarre game. Arsenal gifted Boro with two own goals in the first half! The first was Edu’s deflection off Windass’ shot, and the second was a dreadful clear by Silvinho which sent the ball past David Seaman. In the second half Arsenal really had to push forward, and Richard scored in the 58th minute on a Boro counter-attack. Wow, a 3-0 win for Boro! The craziest thing of all, however, was that this unexpected home loss to second place Arsenal gave the championship to Manchester United. They are sixteen points ahead and there’s no way Arsenal can catch them! So Man. U. are now the champs seven times in nine years. Wow, that’s domination! Final: 3-0 Middlesbrough.

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Fri, Apr 13, 2001

: Bundesliga: Energie Cottbus at Stuttgart

Boring bottom-of-the-barrel clash. Stuttgart finally went ahead on Balakov’s penalty kick, but that was the game’s only goal. Final: 1-0 Stuttgart.

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Thu, Apr 12, 2001

: EPL: Sunderland at Middlesbrough

So boring I don’t even want to talk about it. No goals, lots of yellow cards, but not even a sending off to enliven things. Boring! Final: 0-0.

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: FA Cup: Liverpool vs. Wycombe

This game started off like the Sunderland-Middlesbrough game: no goals until the last twelve minutes. Some good play, but mostly defense for Wycombe, and boring to watch. I knew the game needed a goal, and once Heskey nailed a header from a few yards out to put Liverpool in front, the game indeed changed for the better, with both sides trying. But Fowler added to Liverpool’s lead with a great free kick goal in the 83rd minute, and it looked like Wycombe was done. Then they snuck in a goal on their own with one minute left. Their keep put in a long ball right into Liverpool’s penalty box. The ball was headed down by a Wycombe player to Ryan, who was open, and he finished it. But it wasn’t enough. Liverpool deservedly win. Final: 2-1 Liverpool.

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Wed, Apr 11, 2001

: La Liga: Barceleona at Villareal

Wow, what a game. Zillions of goals. Don’t know that I’ve ever seen a soccer game quite like this one. Villareal came out storming, fulling intending to put a lock on the came early. They scored three goals in twenty minutes! Former Barca player Victor got the first one eleven minutes in, followed by Calleja seven minutes later. Victor added another in the twentieth minute. It looked like it was all Villareal, but then Kluivert got one in the 38th minute and Barca was awarded a penalty kick in the dying minutes of the first half. Rivaldo stepped up to take the kick and I was positive the score was going to be 3-2. But Rivaldo missed! His rebounded off the base of the post! After that brush with danger, Villareal looked like they would survive as Barca squandered chance after chance. But early in the second half Kluivert managed another, and then Rivaldo scored himself on about the hour mark, tying the score and making up for his missed penalty. But the game was by no means over. Villareal went up again just five minutes later, when Lopez scored after Palermo whiffed on his shot. As time ran out it looked like Villareal would get the three points for sure. The game went into injury time, one, two, then three minutes passed. There were just seconds left. Barca was still pushing hard, when, amazingly, Kluivert managed to score his third to complete his hat trick and give Barca a valuable road point. Wow, eight goals in one game! Final: 4-4.

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: Champions League: Deportivo at Leeds

Does it make sense to insult your opponent before playing them? Probably not. It doesn’t do you any good and it can only hurt you. No doubt Deportivo’s coach regrets his critical comments on Leeds before this game. His team was roasted. Ian Harte scored just 26 minutes in off a wonderful free kick, and Smith and Ferdinand added to the total in the second half. Deportivo hardly had a shot on Leeds’ goal all night. They’ll have a tough job scoring more than three goals against Leeds at home. Final: 3-0 Leeds.

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Mon, Apr 09, 2001

: Serie A: Roma at Fiorentina

Another trouncing for a top club! Chiesa scored twelve minutes in to put Fiorentina on top, but that was equalized by Emerson twenty minutes later. After that the game sort of dragged, with neither team taking control. Then, in the 52nd minute, Candella’s headed clear hit the post and bounced into his own goal! Fiorentina were leading again. Roma fought hard creating a slew of chances: at one point Fiorentina defenders made two off-the-line clearances in the span of a minute. But the ball never crossed the line, and with eight to go Chiesa got his second and put the result beyond doubt. The first win for new coach Mancini. Final: 3-1 Fiorentina.

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: FA Cup: Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Fair but disappointing game. Spurs started things off brilliantly, with a great goal by Doherty. The first shot was impressively saved by David Seaman, but the rebound shot/cross went wide to Doherty who headed it in for the triangle goal. Seemed like things were looking up for Spurs, but sadly it was not to be. Vieira (who probably should have had two yellow cards by this time) scored in the 33rd minute on a header to equalize, and Pires gave Arsenal the victory halfway through the second half. The two goals disheartened Tottenham, who seemed lost and never really got going after that, though they made a few game efforts. Arsenal once again stumble forward. Final: 2-1 Arsenal.

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Sun, Apr 08, 2001

: Bundesliga: Bayern Munich at B. Dortmund

Exciting game. It started off as a normal Bayern win, with Santa Cruz scoring just six minutes in. But 30 minutes later Lizarazou was sent off for his second yellow. In the dying minutes of the half Dortmund had two goals called off for off-side, one of them unfairly. In the second half, Bobic finally got his goal, tying the score. It was a ground shot that keeper Kahn should have stopped: the ball went right past his foot, but instead of kicking it, he tried to dive and save it with his hands. (Stupid. If I was a goal-keeping coach I’d make my keepers practice with their hands tied behind their backs: they depend too much on their hands.) Moments after the goal Effenberg was red carded for a horrible tackle and Munich was down to nine men. Dortmund really poured on the pressure, but couldn’t get another goal, making this the equivalent of a loss for them. In injury time Evanilson was sent off for Dortmund. Final: 1-1.

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: Bundesliga: Kaiserslautern at Schalke

What’s wrong with Kaiserslauten? Schalke just overpowered them. Waldoch scored twice in the first ten minutes, followed by two goals from Sand in the second half. Mpenza got one of his own in the last few minutes as well. Kaiser did manage one goal, in the 72nd minute, but Schalke ruled. Final: 5-1.

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: MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Los Angeles Galaxy

Unbelievable game! San Jose has consistently been one of the worst teams in MLS. This year they’ve got a lot of new exciting players and are promising better results. Well, talk doesn’t cut it: actions do. And San Jose delivered in their season opener at rivals L.A. They started things off in a storming fashion, with Dayak heading in a goal nine minutes in. San Jose remained composed and focused, and their plan worked: Cerritos scored in the 24th minute, and that was followed by a great goal from Canadian International DeRosario just minutes later. Three goals in less than 30 minutes! Unbelievable! L.A. looked legitimately outclassed. In the second half, San Jose made the mistake of sitting back on their lead. They allowed L.A. some possession, which built their confidence. Finally they began breaking down San Jose’s defense. With just ten minutes left Victorine’s kick slipped the ball through and L.A. were on the board. they fought hard, pouring on the pressure, and suddenly Frye got open and scored (on a ground ball that Cannon dove for and should have kick-saved). Only one goal separated the teams and L.A. were hungry for one more. But San Jose played well, defending intelligently and composed, and managed to keep the Galaxy from scoring again. Incredible start for San Jose, which hasn’t won their home opening in three seasons. (In fact, last season they didn’t win an away game until round 21!) Final: 3-2 San Jose.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Sat, Apr 07, 2001

: MLS: Chicago Fire at Columbus Crew

Today is the start of Major League Soccer action and if this game is any indication of what’s in store, it’s going to be good. The level and speed of play seemed higher than ever, probably partly due to a number of internationals like Josh Wolff, who forgot that MLS is supposed to be a slower-paced game. The first half was all Chicago, with young DaMarcus Beasley just burning up the field. He not only demonstrated great speed and stamina, he show terrific ball skills, dribbling past defenders and delivering excellent passes. Wonderful, and the kid’s only 18! His feed provided the game’s first goal, by Wolyniec. After that things quieted as the Fire didn’t seem as desperate and Columbus showed virtually no offense. In the second half Columbus still wasn’t playing, which was disappointing, until suddenly, Dante Washington found himself open with the ball floating toward him, and he used his head to put it just inside the post. Suddenly the team and the fans came alive! From that moment on the game was fantastic: hard tackles, end-to-end action, shots for both sides, and great saves by both keepers. This continued right to the end of the game when Aguilera was sent off for Columbus for a bad tackle. The advantage didn’t last long, however, when Lewis was sent off for Chicago as the last man who took down Washington on a break-away. In the dying seconds of the game Columbus Crew substitute keeper Tom Presthus made two great saves to keep them alive, and with literally two seconds left on the clock, his counterpart Thorton made a great save of his own. The game went into MLS’ silly ten minutes of overtime, but since it’s Golden Goal, it was exciting. Chicago’s Guitierrez was sent off when he threw an elbow reacting to a foul, but even with nine men Chicago spent most of the time in Columbus’ penalty box. But it was all for naught: the game ended with no more goals, so each team gets one point. Columbus escaped the indignity of losing their home opener, and the Fire have a respectable road point. Final: 1-1.

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: EPL: Coventry City at Leicester City

Astonishing! Where did this Coventry come from? With relegation looming, wins are vital for Coventry, but the goals just haven’t been coming. Until today. Bellamy scored in the first minute, stunning everyone. But Leicester battled back and Akinbiyi managed a header eight minutes later to equalize, and it seemed like the same old Coventry situation. But it was not. Chance after chance had Coventry, who can bare score at home, putting Leicester on the defensive. Lee Carsley got a terrific header in the nineteenth minute, so Coventry went into the locker room at the half one goal ahead. It really should have been four-one, except for some terrific goal-keeping and bad luck. In the second half I expected Leicester to fight, but before they got going Hartson, who’d had several good chances in the first half, finally got his goal just a few minute in. Eventually Leicester got a little going, but it was much too late and Coventry were so full of confidence that their defense had a reasonably easy time of it. Terrific win for lowly Coventry. Final: 3-1.

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: Princess Mononoke

This is an amazing film, unlike any animated film I’ve ever seen. For one, it’s over two hours long! For another, it violates stereotypes of characters, something that few live action films do effectively. This is an incredibly complex film: I’ll probably have to watch it several times to understand all the nuances. Unlike most movies, where there’s a clear good guy and bad guy, in this film everyone’s good and bad. For instance, the main hero’s a young man who saved his village from a monstrous demon but in the process the demon touched his arm, which becomes infected. He is told he must leave the village forever: the infection of hatred and evil will eventually kill him. The man leaves on a quest to remove the curse and on his journey learns that his arm has a will of it’s own, causing him to brutally kill two Samuri who were abusing a villager. So we’ve got a hero who must battle against himself: hatred and anger give strength to his evil arm. But that’s just part of the story. Things get really complicated as he discovers the origin of the demon that tried to destroy his village and cursed him. A tip sends him to the primordial forest where giant animals from the dawn of time still live, and he seeks out the Forest Spirit, who can perhaps remove his curse. He ends up at Irontown, a village where the major industry is the ironworks, run by a ruthless woman who, contrary to stereotype, cares for lepers and abused women. The woman is out to destroy the forest so they can mine the iron under the mountain, so the young man finds his loyalties divided: he cares for the animals of the forest and doesn’t want to see them destroyed, yet he also cares for the humans, who need to survive. He confronts Princess Mononoke, a wild girl-child who was raised by giant wolves (and thinks she’s a wolf and hates humans). As the conflict between the humans and the animals escalates, we realize this is the primary theme of the film: hatred on the part of either party, anger and senseless killing, are the real evils of the world, not individuals we blame for causing us pain. It is hatred and bitter rage that turns animals from gods into cursed demons that are neither human nor animal, and who hurt both. Fantastic movie, far too complex to analyze in a few brief paragraphs. Just go get it and watch it. Buy it: it’s a film you’ll watch over and over again. There are no easy, trivial answers in the film, only that hatred is bad and it takes willpower to defeat it.

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Fri, Apr 06, 2001

: The Dinner Game

Hilarious French movie about a group of rich men who have a weekly contest where they each invite an idiot to dinner. The man with the biggest idiot wins. The idiots don’t know why they’re there, of course — that’s the whole joke. They think they’re invited because the important men want to hear their ideas. Great premise, but the movie goes a completely different direction: we never even get to the dinner. Instead, the main rich guy tweaks his back golfing and can’t go to the dinner. He finds himself stuck at home with the prize idiot of all time, who won’t leave, and goes on and on incessantly about his matchstick models. Next, the phone rings and it’s his wife saying she’s leaving him, and what follows is a bizarre comedy of errors as the man, with the “help” of his idiot, try to track her down and save his marriage. Absolutely priceless. Great performances, especially by the idiot, who somehow manages to be an ingratiating moron and evoke sympathy from the viewer. Well worth your time. A classic.

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Thu, Apr 05, 2001

: UEFA Cup: Liverpool at Barcelona

One word: boring! Liverpool played defensively and Barcelona couldn’t break it down. Good first leg result for Liverpool, bad for home team Barca. Final: 0-0.

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Wed, Apr 04, 2001

: Champions League: Valencia at Arsenal

This game started off with the Spanish team dominating. Ayala got a goal just before the half to put Valencia in good position. But Arsenal came back in the second — a completely different team. Henry scored just before the hour mark, and that was followed two minutes later by a magnificent strike from Parlour. He blasted it from long range into the top corner of the net giving the keeper no chance at all. Brilliant! Final: 2-1 Arsenal.

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Tue, Apr 03, 2001

: Champions League: Bayern Munich at Manchester United

A surprisingly boring game, with Palo Sergio scoring for Munich in the 86th minute. Where was Man. U.’s offense? Final: 1-0 Bayern.

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: World Cup Qualifier: Brazil at Ecuador

In the first half, Ecuador dominated, though Brazil showed dangerous flashes. But shortly into the second half, Ecuador put together a brilliant run into the box and though the shot was going wide, Delgado slid into it to put Ecuador up one against the mighty Brazil. After that it was war: great chances on both sides made for a great game, but in the end, the goal held up, and Ecuador gets the major upset! Final: 1-0 Ecuador.

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Mon, Apr 02, 2001

: EPL: Ipswitch Town at Southampton

Poor Southampton: they struggled at the beginning of the season, but new coach Glenn Hoddle turned their season around. They haven’t lost in their last six games. Then last week he suddenly left to manage Tottenham; perhaps that rattled Southampton’s confidence. Ipswitch, astonishingly in third place in the league, decided they wanted to keep that place. Marcus Stewart got open in the box and slotted in an easy goal 33 minutes in. He got his second in the second half, and capped that off with a penalty kick goal in the 76th minute. A hat trick! That was more than enough. Final: 3-0 Ipswitch.

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: Serie A: Lazio at A.C. Milan

Very slow first half, but in the second Milan began to really play, looking very impressive. Lazio looked mediocre the entire game. The goal came from my favorite Croatian, Boban, who played well, and put in a terrific long-range header that shot into the back corner like it came from a gun. How he got such control on it, I’ll never know. Great goal. Final: 1-0 Milan.

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Sun, Apr 01, 2001

: Bundesliga: B. Dortmund at Kaiserslautern

Wild game with gobs of goals. Things started a little slow, but heated up when Bobic scored in the 33rd minute. In the second half, Dortmund came of gunning for more: seconds after the kickoff, Addo got a great goal, getting himself alone against the keeper and finishing with confidence. Eight minutes later Kaiserslauten came back with a goal from Lokvenc, but just minutes after that Lars Ricken scored for Dortmund, restoring their two goal lead. The matter was put beyond doubt when Heinrich scored in the 76th minute: Kaiserslautern was going to lose. Final: 4-1 Dortmund.

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: Serie A: Fiorentina at Vicenza

Odd game in which Fiorentina scored the only goals but didn’t win. Tiny Vicenza really battled, doing themselves well, but their goal came from Fiorentina when defender Repka scuffed his clear, sending the ball trickling into his own net instead of away. Fiorentina finally got the ball in the correct goal late in the game when Rui Costa scored, but couldn’t do more than a draw. Final: 1-1.

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Sat, Mar 31, 2001

: EPL: Tottenham at Arsenal

Incredibly dull first half, with nothing happening for either team. Then in the second half, suddenly Arsenal showed up and began to play. They peppered poor Tottenham with shots, but a combination of frantic defending and luck kept Arsenal off the board. Then, on a harmless run down the left wing, Frenchman Pires doubled back, beating his marker, and instead of crossing, took a shot. It curled into the far corner past the outstretched keeper. A beautiful goal. Later, Thierry Henry got one to put the matter beyond doubt. Final: 2-0 Arsenal.

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: Under 20: USA vs. Costa Rica

A bit of a meaningless game as both teams had already qualified, but fought hard for pride. The teams seemed evenly matched for a while, but then Costa Rica started really pushing. They finally struck in minute 42 with an incredible curling free kick blast from thirty yards out by Fajardo. Early in the second half, the US came back: Convey’s easy long-range shot slipped through the legs of the hapless keeper and crept over the line. After that the teams just traded the ball. There were opportunities on both sides, with Costa Rica having the edge in possession, but in the end, neither team could break the other. Final: 1-1.

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Fri, Mar 30, 2001

: Bundesliga: Hansa Rostock at Wolfsburg

Okay game, with Wolfsburg dominating. They scored 14 minutes in by Kuhbauer, and he got his second on the hour mark (chipping the ball over the keeper). Majak scored on a header on a corner kick to bring Rostock back for a little while, but their new-found faith didn’t last long, and they finally fell. Final: 2-1 Wolfsburg.

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: Charlie’s Angels (again)

Just got the DVD — very cool, an even better film the second time around. Since you know what to expect (eye candy) you just ignore the silly plot and just enjoy the view. A blast.

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Thu, Mar 29, 2001

: Kelly’s Heroes

Cool WWII action-comedy with Clint Eastwood and a bevy of stars. Clint is Kelly, and he leads a group of men attempting to sneak behind German lines to rob a bank holding $16 million in German gold. Absurd spoof, but fun; I especially liked the music by Lalo Schifrin (the guy who created the Mission: Impossible theme.)

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Wed, Mar 28, 2001

: Under-20: USA vs. Trinidad & Tobago

Another slaughter, with the U.S. dominating. Things started off with a goal from Beasley quickly followed by Convey, who had two in the first half. T&T had a few chances, especially late in the first half, but the U.S. hit the woodwork several times and T&T was lucky the score wasn’t 6-0 going into the half. In the second the Americans took off from where they’d stopped, quickly scoring again, and though they finally gave up a goal, they scored yet another to make up for it (Davis, late in the game). Final: 5-1 U.S.A.

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: Champions League: Sturm Graz at Manchester United

Nicky Butt’s blast five minutes in put United in a good position, and Sheringham made his look easy fifteen minutes later. That lead was all Man. U. needed, but Roy Keane added one late to secure an easy win. Final: 3-0 Manchester United.

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Tue, Mar 27, 2001

: Code to Zero

Author: Ken Follett

Excellent spy thriller, though slightly confusing in tense. It’s set in 1954, when the U.S. is rushing to put their first satellite into orbit or lose out to the Russians in the space race. But then it keeps flashing back twenty-some years earlier to when the main characters were in college together. The flashbacks are clearly marked by year, so that’s okay, but the “present” chapters don’t say 1954 and Follett doesn’t do quite enough in his descriptions to remind us that it’s 1954 and not 2001. I kept forgetting which decade we’re in. But Follett’s details of the first successful U.S. rocket launch are fascinating, and the plot of his story is good. He starts us off with a rocket scientist named Luke who has lost his memory (a bit cliche) and doesn’t know who he is. But people are following him, and he has secret agent-like skills. Is he a spy? Gradually, he pieces together the clues leading to the traitor who betrayed him, and discovers the plot to stop the launching of the rocket. Pretty good tale. There are a few flaws, but one thing I liked was the way Follett fed us information and backstory behind the group of characters. We see them dating in college, hear about their exploits during the war, and gradually find out how relationships fell apart or came together in unexpected ways. Worth the few hours it takes to read such a novel.

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: The Crow: Salvation

Weak sequel with more of the same revenge killing; a few good scenes but the plot has large jumps in logic which hurts momentum. Okay; some of the action is decent. Starts off too slowly and the ending is feeble.

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Mon, Mar 26, 2001

: Oscar Commentary

Okay, I have officially lost all respect for the Academy Awards. There have been times in the past I’ve disagreed with their decisions, but mostly that was simply because I had a favorite I was pushing. But giving

Topic: [/oscars]

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: La Liga: Deportivo at Las Palmas

Not a bad game, though a week old. Deportivo’s the reigning champs, but tiny Las Palmas rained on their parade. They got their first goal just five minutes in from Josico, and another in first half injury time from Alvaro. That was all they need, for though Deportivo made a rash of changes for the second half, it was all for naught. Final: 2-0 Las Palmas.

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: Oscar Commentary

Okay, I have officially lost all respect for the Academy Awards. There have been times in the past I’ve disagreed with their decisions, but mostly that was simply because I had a favorite I was pushing. But giving

Topic: [/television]

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Sun, Mar 25, 2001

: EPL: Sunderland at Chelsea

This was a rerun game I’d missed, but it was a good one. Both teams have been on losing streaks and desperately wanted wins. Desailly managed a header in the 14th minute to put the home team up one, but Hutchison equalized fifteen minutes later. But just before the half, Gudjohnson, the Finn, who’d had a great assist on his team’s first goal, got one of his own. Sunderland went into the lockers at halftime a goal down, but came out determined. Hutchison got his second just six minutes into the second half, quickly followed by McCann less than ten minutes later. Kevin Phillips ended his goalless streak with a tap-in twenty minutes after that, and Chelsea couldn’t break down the Sunderland defense. So Sunderland wins at Chelsea for the first time since 1957! Final: 4-2 Sunderland.

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: Under-20: USA vs. Guatemala

Wow, what a romp! The U.S. Men’s team struggles against lowly opponents like Guatemala, but not these American youngsters. They came out storming. This bodes incredibly well for the future of U.S. soccer. Many of these kids are already known for the Sydney Olympics and their play in Major League Soccer. Connor Casey started things with a goal just ten minutes in, quickly followed by two from 17-year-old Bobby Convey. Thirty minutes in it was 4-0 U.S.A. courtesy of Jamar Beasley. In the second half, the U.S. easily held Guatemala off and got one more from substitute Brad Davis in the 76th minute. Wow! 5-0 U.S.A.!

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: True Grit

Cool movie. I’d never seen this, or much of any John Wayne movie, but I started watching it on TV and then went and found my tape of it. It’s the story of an ornery Marshal (Wayne), a Texas Ranger (Glen Campbell), and a stubborn teen (Kim Darby). Darby’s father has been shot and she’s out to catch the man that killed him, so she hires John Wayne. Campbell ends up joining the party as the murderer’s wanted in Texas for shooting a senator and there’s a big reward out for him. The movie’s got some good action, lots of big stars in early roles (Robert Duvall’s one of the bad guys), great scenery, and of course the three main characters like to argue with each other. But it’s the teen, Darby, who’s character holds the film together, with her intelligence and determination: she hires Wayne because he’s got “grit,” but it’s really her who’s got true grit. Fun, though a little long.

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: Bring It On

Director: Peyton Reed

Cool flick! It’s astonishingly refreshing to see a comedy that doesn’t degrade its subject with stereotypes and crude jokes. Of all things, cheerleading is a subject you’d expect stereotypical humor, but I only counted one instance of “airhead cheerleader” humor. Instead this is a sharply written, realistic portray of the intensely competitive world of high school cheerleading. And yet it is a comedy, and manages to find lots of humor without degrading the characters. The characters are fun, cute, and likable: you want them to succeed. The story mostly centers around Kirsten Dunst’s character, who’s just been promoted to captain and is in charge of the squad. She then discovers that her predecessor stole the squad’s routines from a rival black high school. But is there time to come up with completely new routines in the few weeks before nationals? While certainly not deep or profound, this is a fun, enjoyable film, quite funny, and remarkably tame for a modern teen flick. Dunst is ideal in her role — so obnoxiously cute you want to slap her, but then she turns and smiles knowingly at the camera and you see that she’s having fun with the role, and isn’t vain or stuckup at all. Impressive performance.

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Sat, Mar 24, 2001

: Farinelli

Fascinating film about Carlo Boschi, a.k.a. Farinelli, a castrato — a castrated choir boy — who becomes the world’s greatest singer in the 1730’s, a contemporary of Handel. The film is mainly about the relationship between him and his brother, and I found it fascinating. His brother’s a composer who gains fame through his brother’s voice yet there are questions about his talent. Overall the film’s flawed: it has some rough spots, is confusing with its excessive use of flashbacks, and a touch long. But it is incredibly interesting, with excellent performances, and tells an unusual tale. I really liked the debates about creativity, inspiration, and talent. Worth seeing. Best line: After Carlo proposes to a woman who rejects him with laughter, he apologizes by saying, “I have played God so many times on stage I thought I could be a Man off stage.”

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: Zero Effect

Another uneven film. This movie didn’t know what it was. The promos made it sound like a comedy: having Ben Stiller in it made that seem logical. But Ben played straight man in this, and though there were a few humorous situations, it didn’t work. Bill Pullman plays the world’s greatest, most eccentric private eye, Darryl Zero; Stiller’s his mouthpiece, as he doesn’t talk with clients in person. The mystery’s not bad, but rather predictable, though I liked the way Zero solved things. But the film drags on forever at a glacial pace, and meanders, not knowing what it is: comedy? romance? film noir? private eye flick? Who knows? Falls flat.

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: World Cup Qualifier: Finland at England

Awesome game! No regular league soccer this weekend as it’s World Cup qualifiers, so I shelled out twenty bucks to watch this on pay-per-view. It seemed outrageous to me, but then some morons pay $60 for wrestling, so who’s to say. Anyway, this turned out to be an excellent game. England was at the bottom of their group and this was a must-win for them to have any shot at going to the World Cup in 2002. Their new coach, Lazio’s Erikson, had to come up with a critical win in his first real game (their recent friendly didn’t count). Things weren’t looking good when England’s early pressure didn’t yield a goal, and suddenly a mistake at the back deflected the ball into the net instead of clearing it: Finland were ahead. England kept pushing, however, and just before the half miracle boy Michael Owen became a hero when his long shot curled into the goal. In the second half, England came out storming, and Captain David Beckham came up big. He got the ball on the right side with some space and blasted it into the Finnish goal. He’d had a few great shots during the game and they all went right to the keeper, but this one struck pay dirt. The Finns couldn’t come back from their deficit, though they fought hard and made the last ten minutes very interesting. In the end, though, all was well for England. Final: 2-1 England.

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Fri, Mar 23, 2001

: Me, Myself, and Irene

Extremely uneven film. Had a few good moments, some amazing performances by Jim Carey, but the story was too fragmented and much of the comedy just didn’t work. Some of the humor was just crude bathroom humor that even Carey seemed uncomfortable with, and other scenes just weren’t funny, like the business with the cow that wouldn’t die. Weak.

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Wed, Mar 21, 2001

: Champions League: Lazio at Leeds

A meaningless match, as Leeds is already through in the group, and Lazio can’t advance even with a win. But instead of taking it easy, these teams battled ferociously. Awesome game! Lazio got going first, with a goal from Ravenvelli in the 21st minute, but Bowyer tied it miutes later with an unbelievable shot standing with his back to the goal and spinning around as he shot. Minutes later a penalty kick was awarded to Lazio, and Milhajlovic easily scored. But just before the half Wilcox got a goal on a corner kick to level everything. Viduka had an easy goal shortly into the second half, and Leeds hung on to their lead until the end of the game, when Milhajlovic got his second in injury time. Wow, six great goals! Great game, though ultimately it doesn’t mean anything. Crazy. Final: 3-3.

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Tue, Mar 20, 2001

: UEFA Cup: Barcelona at Celta Vigo

Awesome game, though Barcelona had the edge going in, leading in the home and away series. Rivaldo started things off with a fantastic long-range strike in the 29th minute, but five minutes later Celta was back in it on an incredible turn at the top of the box shot from another Brazilian, Catanha. Just before the half Rivaldo scored again, this time on an amazing free kick. It looked like it was all over for Celta. But then a penalty was award and Lopez finished to tie the game. Mostovoi got one in stoppage time to allow Celta the victory, but unfortunately for them, the two away goals from Rivaldo took their toll and broke the tie, so Barcelona advance and Celt’s out. Final: 3-2 Celta Vigo.

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: La Liga: Real Madrid at Mallorca

Good, competitive match. Luque slipped in a deflection goal off a shot from Eto’o (who had several great chances but didn’t score) near the end of the first half. Real Madrid really fought hard, but seemed baffled by Mallorca’s amazing defense. There was always a player marking the man with the ball, and no one was allowed through. Good to see the champs suffer a little. Final: 1-0 Mallorca.

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Mon, Mar 19, 2001

: Serie A: Parma at Udinesse

Pretty good game, though the scoring took a while to start. DiVaio started things off in the 58th minute, but then a minute later Fiore tied things up on a penalty kick for Udinesse. Things were looking better, but only for seconds: a penalty kick was called the other direction. Amoroso put it away. He scored again toward the end, to really put the nail in Udinesse’s coffin. Final: 3-1 Parma.

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: EPL: Leicester City at Manchester United

Bizarre game. I’d expected big scoring, but Man. U. were quiet. They completely dominated Leicester, who hardly had a shot on goal the whole night, but couldn’t finish. Even as we approached the end of the game, with just minutes left, I still figured United would not only not let the game end in a tie, but would beat Leicester soundly. Sure enough, that’s what happened. Yorke deflected a shot to score in the 88th minute, and in injury time, Silvestre got his first Premiereship goal (a great shot, btw). Crazy. Final: 2-0 Manchester United.

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Sun, Mar 18, 2001

: Serie A: Juventus at Lazio

One of the most anticipated matches of the season, and with both teams at the top of the table, critical. Juventus played well, but shockingly it was Lazio who took the early lead on an easy feed to Nedved that beat the offside trap just 23 minutes in. Crespo, who’s been off form the last couple of games, was back with his own goal just one minute into the second half, a great one-on-one finish against Van der Sar, Juventus’ keeper. Juventus was down by two but not out, but then Davids got his second yellow and was ejected. It was starting to look bleak for Juventus, so Del Piero went in on his own and scored a magnificent roofer right on the hour mark. But Lazio wasn’t going to let that stand: they came back with more: another from Nedved and another from Crespo, to really finished Juventus off (Lazio’s first win against their rivals since 1985). Amazingly, a quarter of the goals that Juventus have given up this season they gave up in this game! Tons more stuff happened: a red for Trezeget late, leaving Juventus with only nine players; several top notch saves from Lazio’s keeper; and a goal mouth clearance from Lazio’s Nesta. Terrific game, exactly what soccer is all about! Final: 4-1 Lazio.

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Sat, Mar 17, 2001

: EPL: Manchester City at Bradford City

This fight of two teams at the bottom of the league turned out to be surprisingly good, though none of the goals were of the world class variety. Man. City started things off with a goal from Wiekens, and it looked like things were going their way until the second half, when suddenly Bradford came on strong with two goals in five minutes! Blake scored first, then Ward, and it wasn’t until Goater’s tying goal in the 70th minute that Manchester City could breath again. Bradford fought hard — a draw does them no good at all, they are so far down — but a draw is what they got. Final: 2-2.

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: Bundesliga: Leverkusen at B. Dortmund

Why can’t they play like this all the time? They started with a goal from Schneider eight minutes in, quickly followed by one from Kirsten a minute later. Worns got one back for Dortmund fifteen minutes in, but they still trailed. There was some good goalkeeping, but Leverkusen held on. Finally, in the end, Dortmund keeper Lens Lemann went forward in injury time to see if he could help out on a corner kick. He got caught out on the counter, and Brdaric easily scored into the empty net. That was the last play of the game. Final: 3-1 Leverkusen

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: Titan A.E.

Director: Don Bluth

Cool animated film, though they never explained what A.E. meant. The DVD extras revealed it means After Earth, as the film takes place after Earth is blown up by aliens. The Titan is a new supership Earth was building just before it was destroyed, and it was saved and hidden, though no one knows where. The main character, a young man named Cale, learns that his late father was the ship’s creator, and there’s a secret map hidden in the ring his father left him. So Cale is roped into helping a handful of renegade humans find the Titan and save the human race. Cool animation, with lots of computerized effects, great voice acting (it took me until the credits to place the oh-so-familiar voice of the girl: Drew Barrymore), and some above average dialog. Overall the story’s a bit predictable, but it’s far more ambitious than your average animated film. Good job!

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Fri, Mar 16, 2001

: FA Cup: Arsenal vs. Blackburn Rovers

Another boring match, but for a different reason: the goals came too easy. Arsenal had two goals in five minutes, pretty much sealing the game before it started. Wiltord scored just two minutes in, and Tony Adams of all people, got a header three minutes later. Pires added one in the 36th minute, and that was more than enough. Final: 3-0 Arsenal.

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: Bundesliga: Koln vs. Wolfsburg

Neither team did much, and the result was a boring 0-0 draw.

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Thu, Mar 15, 2001

: UEFA Cup: Porto at Liverpool

Great game, with Michael Owen in amazing form. He took the Portuguese team to task! Gerrard was also amazing, involved with both goals. His sharp cross set up Murphy for the first goal, 33 minutes in, and just five minutes later he crossed the ball to Owen who headed the ball down perfectly to beat the flailing keeper. Porto forgot to bring their offense and never even threatened Liverpool. Final: 2-0 Liverpool, who advance to the quarter-finals.

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: Champions League: Arsenal at Bayern Munich

Both teams needed a win in case Lyon won their game in Moscow. As it turned out, Lyon tied, so both Arsenal and Munich go through anyway, but the games were played simultaneously, so no one knew that. Still, Arsenal didn’t play up to expectations at all: Bayern scored ten minutes in on a great diving header by Elber, but Arsenal just kept trying useless long balls all night and all except one were called offside. Really lame. Bayern deserved the win, and based on this game, Arsenal does not deserve to be the in quarter-finals, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Final: 1-0.

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Tue, Mar 13, 2001

: FA Cup: Tottenham vs. West Ham United

Frantic pace to this game — both sides really wanted to win. But Tottenham struck first, on an amazing volley by the Ukrainian Rebrov. The took it right from the throw-in and blasted it into the upper part of the net. But just before the end of the half West Ham answered, on a great free kick by Stuart Pierce, who curled the ball through a crowd and beat Neil Sullivan at the far post. In second half, however, Tottenham went on a roll. First Rebrov got his second goal when Ferdinand’s header found him even with the last defenders, and Rebrov received the ball, turned, and beat the keeper with his shot. West Ham countered on several occasions, forcing Sullivan to make a couple terrific saves. But it looked like it was all over for West Ham when Tottenham’s Doherty scored for a two goal lead. Then Torodov finished to bring West Ham back within one. As the clock ran down, Tottenham defending valiantly and West Ham attacking relentlessly, keeper Sullivan kept Tottenham in the game, including a one-handed save off the line two and a half minutes into stoppage time. That turned out to be West Ham’s last chance, and Tottenham’s manager, George Graham, gets to keep his job. Final: 3-2 Tottenham.

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: Champions League: Deportivo at AC Milan

Boring game, even though it was a must-win for Milan. Deportivo finally went ahead on a soft penalty kick in the 74th minute, but Milan got one back with their own penalty twelve minutes later. But it wasn’t enough. Final: 1-1.

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Mon, Mar 12, 2001

: FA Cup: Liverpool at Tranmere

In the first half it looked like Liverpool had this game wrapped up. Michael Owen and Danny Murphy took turns helping each other out to each score, Murphy in the 11th minute on Owen’s cross, and Owen in the 27th on Murphy’s pass. But in the second half Yates scored just two minutes in to bring Tranmere just a goal away. Gerrard put in a header to restore Liverpool’s two goal lead, but then Allison, just on as a substitute for Paul Rideout (who used to play for the Kansas City Wizards of MLS), scored on his first touch! It was a overeager blunder on the part of Robbie Fowler, who’s defensive back-pass was too hard and therefore was fumbled, allowing Allison to grab it and slip it through Vesterveld’s legs. But Tranmere’s luck finally ran out. They gave up a penalty with nine minutes to go and Fowler converted, and Tranmere couldn’t get back after that. Final: 4-2 Liverpool. Great game!

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: La Liga: Real Sociedad at Real Madrid

What a wipeout! Morientes scored twice in the first half (the second a tap in), then Raul and McManaman add their own late in a second half in which they allowed Sociedad to dominate. They even had a great chance to go five up when the last shot of the game hit the goalpost! Final: 4-0 Real Madrid.

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: Serie A: Lazio at Bologna

You’d have that the Rome club would have dominated this one, but for some reason they forgot to show up. Nervo scored early for Bologna, and just before the half Lazio got a man sent off, leaving them just ten for the rest of the game. After that it was all Bologna, with Lazio hardly getting a chance on goal, and finally Signori scored against his old club to top things off. It was a cheeky goal, too: when the keeper went way out of his box to stop him, Signori scooted the ball around him. The ball trickled for twenty yards, everyone watching breathlessly as it curled into the net, no one near enough to catch it! Final: 2-0 Bologna.

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Sat, Mar 10, 2001

: Weekend Movie Watching

Watched Meet the Parents on DVD and Molly again. Both were excellent, even better on second viewings. Recommended.

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Fri, Mar 09, 2001

: Bundesliga: Werder Bremen at Bayern Leverkusen

Okay game, but it was too one-sided. Leverkusen dominated from the start and ended Bremen’s good streak. The Brazilian Lucia started things off for Leverkusen with a goal just 12 minutes into the game, then things settled down for a while with neither team doing anything. In the second half, however, Leverkusen came alive again, with Neuville scoring early, and Brdaric adding to the tally ten minutes after that. Those goals pretty much did Bremen in, and Leverkusen easily defended their lead. Final: 3-0 Leverkusen.

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Wed, Mar 07, 2001

: International Friendly: Argentina at Italy

This was a great game until I realized I’d only recorded the first half. I’d forgotten I’d told my satellite dish to switch to a movie that I thought I might be interested in, and so it switched away from the game and recorded only part of the movie. Brilliant. I did get to see Fiore score for Italy 26 minutes in, and then Gonzalez tied it up for Argentina ten minutes later. For all I know that’s the way it ended. I’ll have to check on the ‘net for the final score.

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Tue, Mar 06, 2001

: Titanium PowerBook

My Titanium PowerBook G4 arrived today and it is awesome! There are a few glitches, widely reported on Mac websites, but the ‘Book is so fantastic I don’t even care! The 15.” screen is H U G E — it’s wider than most 17” CRT monitors. Incredible. Playing a DVD on that wide screen is impressive, to say the least. The laptop is very speedy, too. I can’t believe how light and thin it is. Really remarkable, considering all the stuff inside. I opened it up to install some extra RAM (I’ve got 384 megs) and the metal of the bottom of the laptop is right there — it’s like there’s no room inside! It will be interesting to see how durable it is over the long haul, but for now I’m amazed.

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: La Liga: Barcelona at Real Madrid

Awesome game! This is the match up that all of Spain waits for every season, and watching a 100,000 screaming fans certainly fills you with anticipation. The game started off with a bang just seven minutes in with Roberto Carlos putting in a shot that he scuffed, but the slower ball turned out to be the perfect through-ball for Raul, who finished it. Barcelona took over the game after that, but it took them until the 36th minute to score, when Rivaldo took on the keeper one-on-one and beat him. But less than a minute later, Raul scored his second when he poached a rebound of McManneman’s shot. Rivaldo picked up his game, scoring his own second in the 70th minute, shooting from long range perfectly between defenders, the keeper, and the goalpost. There was a lot of rough, hassling play after that, and Rivaldo’s hat trick was denied due to an offside call. Neither team was going to get the better of the other, and the game appropriately finished 2-2.

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: Champions League: Leeds United at Real Madrid

Excellent game! Both of these teams were already through to the quater-finals, so the match was somewhat a formality. But the result would determine who would win the group and have home field advantage later in the competition. Leeds started off great, with Alan Smith scoring on a break-away just seven minutes in. But victory was very short-lived when Madrid struck back just sixty seconds later, when Raul finished. Before the half was over Madrid had pulled ahead on Figo’s long cross that turned into a shot, and the awkward bounce fooled Leeds’ keeper, Nigel Martin, and went into the goal. Viduka brought Leeds back ten minutes into the second half, but just a few minutes later Raul got his second goal to secure Real Madrid the victory. Great to see Leeds scoring against the titans of the league! Final: 3-2.

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Mon, Mar 05, 2001

: EPL: Aston Villa at Sunderland

A rather boring game until Joachim scored early in the second half, then Sunderland fought back hard. They couldn’t score for a long time and it looked like they were going down, but finally McCann put it away and secured the draw. Final: 1-1.

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: Serie A: Juventus at Udinesse

Excellent game. After a lag in which one began to wonder if Juventus would be happy with a draw, Zambrotta scored in the 38th minute. Udinesse fought back valiantly, but they couldn’t do anything against the tough Juventus defense. An hour in Inzaghi increased Juventus’ lead. There was some hope for Udinesse when Del Piero handled the ball and got his second yellow, but minutes later their own Alberto was sent off for the same offense. Juventus easily held on after that. Final: 2-0 Juventus.

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Sun, Mar 04, 2001

: Bundesliga: Bayern Munich at Hansa Rostock

What a crazy, amazing game! It had everything. A mistake by Jens Jeremies gave Nigerian Victor Agali an in on goal and he dribbled around Oliver Kahn to score in the first half. Jeremies’ mistake was that his clear hit Agali and bounced forward, the exact thing Jeremies was trying to prevent! But seconds later, defender Sammy Kuffour equalized for Bayern with a terrific header, and ironically, Kuffour was being poorly marked by none other than Agali! Good for Kuffour, who’s still most famous for his mistake in the 1999 Champions League final that gave the trophy to Manchester United. In the second half, Rostock was back with fantastic goal from Salou, who dribbled through what seemed like half the Bayern defense to score! Amazingly, on the hour mark Bayern gave up another free kick near the box and Jakobsson put in a leaping header on the cross to put Rostock up by two. But Bayern cut the lead when Jeremies ran from midfield straight through the defense and beat the keeper. Elber missed a great chance for the equalizer late in the game when he had the ball at his feet in front of an empty net but somehow couldn’t get the shot off in time. Rostock held on and held on through all sorts of drama, and then, in stoppage time, on a Bayern corner kick, goalkeeper Kahn went forward. When the cross came in, he inexplicably punched the ball to score (obviously the goal was disallowed)! I know Kahn’s Germany’s national goalkeeper, but doesn’t he know that keepers are only allowed to use their hands in their own penalty box??? Incredibly stupid! He was given his second yellow card and ejected from the game! (He’ll also get at least a one match suspension too.) Wild! A few more seconds passed, during which a field player played goalkeeper for Bayern, and then it was over, with Rostock beating the perennial champs! Final: 3-2 Rostock.

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: Molly

Why haven’t you heard of this film? It’s very good. It’s basically a retelling of Flowers for Algernon with a woman as the lead, but well done. (If you aren’t familiar with Flowers, it’s about a retarded man who becomes smart through a medical experiment and then slowly becomes dumb again.) Elisabeth Shue gives an excellent performance — by the end of the film I’d forgotten it was her and was thinking of her as Molly. A film like this could come across as overly sentimental or forced, and I was prepared to not like it, figuring it was just another “disease of the week” movie. But Molly is very well done, appropriately low-key, with lots of humor and very little melodrama. Quite remarkable, really. I’m surprised it didn’t get more press. One of the things I liked best about the film was its realistic portrayal of the caretaker, Molly’s brother, as he deals with feelings of guilt for neglecting Molly and the struggle to form his own life. Molly, as a character, is wonderful: she’s 28 but has the mind of a child. She’s not self-conscious at all and reacts to situations exactly like a child. For instance, in one classic scene, while watching a play of Romeo and Juliet, she gets up and runs onto the stage to slap Juliet to wake her up and show Romeo that he shouldn’t kill himself because she’s only sleeping. A big part of the story is the way Molly’s love of life infects everyone she meets, including her brother. Best line of the film: at a restaurant, where during a moment of quiet, Molly suddenly screams, to everyone’s horror. “There was a silence,” she calmly explains. “I screamed for everyone.” Wow, that’s good, really good. Very deep. Two thumbs up for this one. It’s sweet but not saccharine, occasionally profound, and often moving. Well worth 87 minutes of your time.

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Sat, Mar 03, 2001

: International Friendly: Brazil vs U.S.A.

Excellent game which aired on ABC Saturday afternoon. After their fantastic win on Wednesday, the U.S. team was pumped up, but come on, this is against Brazil, the best team in the world. Worse, most of our top players were heading back to their club teams in Europe and were unavailable. The U.S. barely had enough players to fill the field. The youngsters played well, though mistakes were made. The biggest was a pointless foul by Richie Williams to give up a free kick at the edge of the penalty box a half hour into the game. That gave Brazil a good chance and they took it, with Ronaldinho putting in a curling shot that cleared the wall and beat Tony Meola for the first goal of the game. I thought Meola should have done better on the free kick, but he looked very sharp the rest of the game. But the U.S. came back with a terrific goal by Clint Mathis, one of the heros of Wednesday’s game. He ran down the right wing and instead of putting in a cross, saw that the keeper was guarding the near post and put in a shot to the far post. It was perfect, bypassing the keeper and grazing the post to go into the goal. Awesome! Scoring against Brazil is a career-making event and Mathis deserves notice. In the second half Brazil played much better and the U.S. players became tired. Brazil really should have had two or three more goals, but they did get one to go ahead and win the game. A great run by Silvinho up the left side allowed him to get behind the U.S. back line and put in a cross, which Euller ran onto just a step from the goalline for a simple finish. Brazil deservedly won, but the U.S. did themselves proud. Just scoring against Brazil is enough to widen the eyes of many who question the United States’ soccer skill. Final: 2-1 Brazil.

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: International: France vs. Germany

Cool game. I just happened to catch upon this on Telemundo (a Spanish station) while channel surfing. France won on a great goal by Zidane, who took a through-pass and finished with such calm it was almost ridiculous. The guy scores and it’s like, “Okay, that was fun. What’s next?” Germany really struggled in the first half, but played much better in the second (including a terrific volley right on goal by Scholl that was saved by French keeper Bartez). But still, Germany’s just not the soccer powerhouse they once were. Their big stars are retired and they don’t have new ones to replace them. It will be interesting to see how they progress in the future. Final: 1-0 France.

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: EPL: Liverpool at Leicester City

Lame game until the second half, when Liverpool got desperate. Akinbiyi scored early in the second half for Leicester, when Fowler’s poor clear went straight to Robbie Savage, putting the Liverpool defense in an awkward position. Liverpool fought back, but the Leicester defense was a brick wall, and late in the game Izzet ran onto a through-ball for an easy goal which sealed Liverpool’s fate. Final: 2-0 Leicester City.

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Fri, Mar 02, 2001

: Metropolis

Author: Fritz Lang

Director: Fritz Lang

Strange, but remarkable film. It tells the tale of the future city of Metropolis, where the worker class toils relentlessly in the bowels of the city, while the elite live in luxury in the skyscrapers above. The city master’s son, Freder, learns of the worker’s plight, and tries to help them. He meets the beautiful Maria, the leader of the rebellion, who preaches peace. But Freder’s father has the evil inventor create a robot in Maria’s image, and the robot tricks the workers into violence, which is exactly the excuse Freder’s father wanted so he can use violence back. Remarkable for being able to tell such a complex story without sound, so far back at the dawn of cinema. While the quality of the film is poor in terms of film quality, there were many impressive special effects (such as the electric fields and the dream sequences), and the acting was excellent. I found the film’s pace to be lethargic, especially compared to the high-speed visual storytelling I’m accustomed to, but silent films had to explain the story solely with visuals and minimal text, and of course film was so new audiences were not as savy as modern moviegoers. Definitely worth your time.

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Thu, Mar 01, 2001

: EPL: Leeds United at Tottenham Hotspur

Good game. Tottenham started off well, though against the run of play, with a goal from Les Ferdinand a half hour in. He caught the loose ball on a mistake from the Leeds defense and moved forward to dribble around the keeper. Good job. But Leeds didn’t give up. A gentle take-down of Lee Bowyer right at the 45 minute mark gave them a penalty kick, and Ian Harte put it away so they could go into the half tied. In the second half, Lee Bowyer had several chances, finally putting one away seventeen minutes in, on a short corner where he ran the ball out at an angle, turned, and put in a shot which no one bothered to block. Silly goal for Tottenham to give up, and it cost them. Final: 2-1 Leeds.

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Wed, Feb 28, 2001

: World Cup Qualifier: Mexico at U.S.A.

AWESOME GAME! This begins the first of ten brutal final games that will determine which three teams from the CONCACAF region go to World Cup 2002. It is critical the U.S. do well, but fifteen minutes into the game, our best striker, Brian McBride, had to be taken out of the game with an injury. He’d bonked heads with a Mexican player and his right eye swelled up horrendously — I’ve never seen anything like it. His eyebrow was the size of a baseball, swollen so big it closed his eye and he couldn’t see. A half hour after that, the engine of the American team, Claudio Reyna, had to be taken out because of a groin strain. Terrible, just terrible, and Mexicans were really pressing the U.S. Remember, in international play only three substitutions are allowed per team per game, and we’d used two in the first half. The game was played in Columbus, Ohio, in twenty degree weather, and it sure looked like doom was in the air. But just two minutes into the second half, the two substitutes worked major. Clint Mathis, of the New York/New Jersey Metrostars, put in a fantastic 50-yard ball over the back line of the Mexican defense. Speedster Josh Wolff, in terrific form at the Olympics in Australia, burned up the track, rushing past the defenders to grab the ball and run upfield. Mexican keeper Jorge Campos raced out to stop him, but wasn’t quick enough to beat Wolff. Wolff’s touch bounced the ball against Campos and came back, hitting Wolff and going forward. It was a bit of luck and a bit of opportunism, but Josh did well to grab the loose ball and coolly put it in the back of the empty goal. The U.S. led 1-0. After that the Mexicans went all out to defeat the U.S. The took off defenders and put in attackers, and pushed and pushed, but the U.S. held well. A couple of times Brad Friedel, the American keeper, had to make a save, but the U.S. defense was so good he really wasn’t tested. Still, in such a close game, anything can happen, and the packed stadium held their breath for 42 minutes. That’s when Mathis and Wolff combined again, with another long ball and Wolff running toward the corner flag, obviously attempting to waste time. But suddenly he broke free, miraculously dribbling out of a maze of Mexican defenders and running up the end line toward the goal. His sidefooted pass was glorious, perfectly placed, splitting the Mexican defenders, and going right into the path of the onrushing Ernie Stewart. Stewart didn’t waste his opportunity — he just blasted it into the goal. Wow, not only was the U.S. winning, they were winning well. And this was without two of our key players! Amazing, and a real triumph of American soccer. It might be premature or overkill to say it, but from what I saw, this game marks a new day in American soccer. A decade from now we just might look back at this game as being the start of something amazing. From the Olympics to the full national squad, young Americans are proving that they can play the world’s game. Remember, this wasn’t a Sunday match-up: World Cup qualifying games are taken extremely seriously around the world. To put this in perspective, in 90 World Cup qualifiers Mexico has only lost 10 times. Think about that! And make it eleven. Final: 2-0 U.S.A.

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: Bundesliga: B. Dortmund at Schalke

Boring game. All rough fouls, yellow cards, and shots over the bar. Maybe one or two good saves from the keepers, but mostly everything was dreadfully off target. Final: 0-0 boredom.

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: Champions League: Galatasaray at Deportivo

Good game, but the Turkish club was sadly out-classed. They could do little against the Spanish champs, who were really in form. Victor scored first just 40 minutes in, and Djalminha added in a penalty kick in the 72nd minute, but the 2-0 scoreline doesn’t show what a one-sided affair it really was.

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Tue, Feb 27, 2001

: Champions League: Bayern Munich at Spartak Moscow

It was miserably cold and snowy in Moscow, and the field was a muddy mess, but both teams gave it their all. Bayern moved ahead early when Scholl put in a great shot seventeen minutes in. Elber passed him the ball and he ran onto it, kicking it between two onrushing defenders to blast it past the keeper. Spartak really fought back but couldn’t break the German side. In the second half a bad play on a counterattack gave Bayern a penalty kick and it was Scholl who roofed it to give his team a two goal lead. But that wasn’t enough: substitute Paulo Sergio entered late into the game to head in a great goal with just minutes left. Final: 3-0 Munich.

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Mon, Feb 26, 2001

: EPL: Aston Villa at Derby County

Despite the low score, this was a fun game to watch. Derby succeeded in getting a penalty kick late in the first half. Deon Burton took it and scored, putting them up, and though there were chances and crossbar shots the rest of the game, neither team gave up or scored a goal. Derby actually win for once! Final: 1-0 Derby.

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: Serie A: A.C. Milan at Juventus

Great game! Juventus is in form and soaring, while Milan still can’t quite figure out what game they are playing. Defender Tudor started things for Juve, scoring just nine minutes in. After that, Juventus settled down into defensive mode and when they do that, few teams can catch up. In the second half Milan began to press forward more and more desperately, and finally it cost them, when Inzaghi scored in the 67th minute. His first shot was blocked, and he fell down in the box, but managed to scramble to play the ball while lying on the ground, beating the keeper and scoring! Zidane added to Milan’s injury with a cheeky goal in injury time. His chip went over the keeper and curled perfectly into the net. Fantastic! Final: 3-0 Juventus.

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Sun, Feb 25, 2001

: UEFA Cup: Stuttgart at Celta Vigo

Good game. Watched the first half last night, where Celta started things off quick with a goal from Karpin, but Stuttgart came back with a goal in the dying seconds from Blank. But though the German team controlled the second half, they couldn’t score, and it was Mostovoi who made the most of his slight chance to put the Spanish club ahead. Final: 2-1 Celta Vigo.

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: Worthington Cup Final: Liverpool v. Birmingham City

Terrific cup tie. This was the final, so a winner would be determined one way or another. No replays. Liverpool started things off well, and everything looked good when Robbie Fowler put in a top-notch goal. His keeper, Vesterveld, put in a long ball which Heskey nodded down, right to Fowler, who delivered a brilliant shot. Three touches and the ball was in the back of the net! Birmingham held on, fighting for every scrape, and the game was filled with lots of near chances and close shots. But it looked like it was to be Liverpool’s day. Then, with two minutes of injury time expired, the ref suddenly called a penalty kick against Liverpool. Disaster! Birmingham’s main penalty kick taker was injured on the play and off the field, so Purse stepped and finished beautifully, as though there was no pressure at all. That sent the game into 30 minutes of overtime. During the overtime play there were some critical saves, and one foul that should have been another penalty kick for Birmingham, but the ref didn’t call that one (it was far more blatant than the first). Finally, the game went to penalty kicks. The first kicker for Birmingham missed his, putting them behind, but several Liverpool kickers later, one missed, and the two teams were even again. They went to a sixth kick, and Liverpool scored, but then, sadly, Birmingham’s player missed, meaning they lost the game. It was hard for the player — he’d done excellent during the game. So Liverpool win their first hardware in years, and take home the Worthington Cup!

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: Cecil B. Demented

Author: John Waters

Director: John Waters

Waters’ big budget pictures just aren’t as much fun as his low budget spoofs. It’s partly the nature of his type of humor: he tends to take one premise and do a whole film, and the more Hollywood movies just can’t support a one joke premise. This one is a great idea: a mockery of independent and big budget moviemaking via a renegade filmmaker who kidnaps a Hollywood A-list starlet and forces her to be in his film attacking Hollywood. There are some great lines, a fair amount of crudity, some excellent satire, but in the end it seems like a lot of fuss over nothing. Waters fans will enjoy it, of course, but the average viewer won’t find too much too cheer.

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: EPL: Charlton Athletic at Coventry City

Surprisingly good game. Coventry scored early, to the shock of everyone, when Bellamy put in a ball the Charlton keeper fumbled. But Charlton were back minutes later when Rufus put in a similar silly goal at the other end. After the mistakes, there were good goals in the second half, starting with Charlton’s Johansson volleying in a shot just seconds after the kickoff to put them ahead. But Coventry somehow found a way to equalize when Hartson’s missed kick caught just enough of the ball to allow it to trickle over the goalline. Crazy. Final: 2-2.

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Sat, Feb 24, 2001

: What Lies Beneath

Author: Clark Gregg and Sarah Kernochan

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Odd little thriller about a woman seeing ghosts. Doesn’t seem like much, and the casting of huge stars Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer seems overdone, at least at first. But both relish these small, simple roles, performing them with appropriate subtlety. As the movie continues, it grows more complex, and though ultimately the plot is predictable and less than satisfying, the film delivers some nice chills. Excellent directing, with Zemeckis milking the minimalists scenes to good effect. The long climactic bathtub scene is a classic masterpiece, never rushed, and fits in perfectly with the low-key style of the film. (It reminds me a great deal of the flashbulb scene in Hitchcock’s Rear Window.) After that things go overboard and there’s too much action for a psychological film, but the end result is still a decent thriller.

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Fri, Feb 23, 2001

: Bundesliga: Energie Cottbus at Bayern Leverkusen

Crazy game. Cottbus is at the bottle and Leverkusen’s just two points behind leaders Bayern Munich, and Cottbus haven’t even won a single away game all season, so I figured this was an easy one for Leverkusen. It was not. A half hour in Mirluta scored on a breath-taking free kick, and just ten minutes after that Labak increased the lead to two. In the second half Leverkusen were just as bad, giving up a second goal to Mirluta on the hour mark, and only getting a consolation goal from Ze Roberto with fifteen minutes left. Leverkusen really looked dismal. Final: 3-1 Energie Cottbus, with their first away win of the season.

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: Battlefield Earth

Author: L. Ron Hubbard

Director: Roger Christian

Huh? I’d heard terrible things about this and expected that it couldn’t possibly be that bad. It’s not. At least if you liked the book, it’s not, as it’s close to the book to be mildly interesting. If you hated the book you’ll hate the film. It essentially strips out all the unusual, interesting parts of the book and only keeps the action scenes. Incomprehensibly, however, the film makes astonishingly primitive and foolish errors. For instance, John Travolta plays an alien, a Psychlos named Terl. Yet he and the other Psychlos are nearly indistinguishable from the humans. Psychlos are supposed to be huge creatures, nine feet tall, and there’s some awkward camera work to almost make that illusion happen, but then all the Psychlos machinery, chairs, etc. are human-sized! The pace of the whole film is rushed to the point of incomprehensibility — key lines of dialog are thrown away or grunted in strange incomprehensible accents — if you haven’t read the book I doubt anything would make sense. But so much of the book is tossed out that what’s left doesn’t make sense anyway. And there are weird technical mistakes, such as the matter transportation special effect which was so badly done you couldn’t figure out what was happening. I mean come on, Star Trek had that working in the sixties! And what was up with the acting? Performances varied all over the place, with the human hero played by Barry Pepper absolutely terribly, just a mishmash of rebellion and toughness. Now there were a few good things: I thought Travolta did a good job conveying the sliminess of Terl, and the special effects of planet Psychlos were fine, but the story just didn’t mesh. It’s an epic tale told by a kindergarten teacher, reduced of all complexity and science. Next time, get a decent script and director. I was shocked after the film was over to discover that the director, whom I was positive was a no-talent MTV video hack doing his first feature, is an industry veteran who’s been making films since the 1970’s (even winning an Academy Award for a short) and came personally recommended by George Lucas. Have we really sunk this low? Seventy percent of the problems of this film came from the director, the rest from the script (which wasn’t that bad, though it had some serious deficiencies in places). Watching the pompous director on the DVD compare Hubbard’s novel to Frank Herbert’s Dune is not only an insult, it shows how little this guy about science fiction and literature. He ought to have to pay money to every person who suffered through this turkey.

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Thu, Feb 22, 2001

: UEFA Cup: Roma at Liverpool

With a two-zip result in the first leg, Liverpool was sitting pretty. But if people thought Roma was going to take an English loss sitting down, they were mistaken. Roma came out fighting and set an incredible pace, forcing Liverpool into some frantic clearances. But by the end of the first half, it was still zero-zero. An hour in, Liverpool were given a gift penalty kick, but Michael Owen rushed his shot, sending in an easy sidefoot for the Roma keeper to block. That energized Roma, and soon the Uruguayan Guigou took the ball outside the penalty box and put in a stunning shot that curled into the goal. Amazing. Stunned, Liverpool fought back desperately, but it looked like it might be Roma’s day when they were awarded a penalty for a handball. But seconds later, the ref changed his mind and gave a corner kick instead. Roma players protested violently and the ref gave out a slew of yellow cards, but he didn’t change his mind and give the penalty kick (which was questionable). One of those yellows ultimately resulted in a Roma player being ejected for a second one toward the end, and the last few minutes of the game were incredibly exciting as ten-man Roma gave everything they could. But though Roma won, 1-0, it’s Liverpool who advance to the quarterfinals, on the merit of their two away goals in Rome.

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Wed, Feb 21, 2001

: Serie A: Lecce at Roma

Roma looked the stronger from the start, though obtaining goals was tough. They finally managed in the second half, when defender Walter Samuel received a cross and headed in a goal. It was his first goal in the Serie A, and it proved to be the game winner. Final: 1-0 Roma.

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: EPL: Liverpool at Sunderland

I have to be honest: I slept through most of this game. I did see the goals, however. The first half was nil-nil. Just as I was dozing off in the second, Hutchinson put one in for Sunderland, and toward the end of the game, Litmanen tied it up for Liverpool on a penalty kick. That’s about all I remember. Final: 1-1 draw.

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: Champions League: Lazio vs. Real Madrid

Real Madrid is at the top of their group while Lazio hasn’t had a single win, but Lazio started things off boldly with a goal by Nedved in the fourth minute. His shot went through the legs of a defender, then went through the legs of the surprised keeper! Crazy goal, but they all count. Though Real Madrid had the most possession, Lazio looked more dangerous. So it was odd that the next goal was Madrid’s, when Solari scored in the 32nd minute. Shortly into the second half Lazio regained the lead when Crespo poached a goal with pure persistence. But a perfect cross onto Raul’s head allowed his header to tie the score with less than twenty minutes left. I thought there would be more scoring, but that was it. Madrid was happy with a tie. Since Leeds United won their game, Leeds and Real Madrid advance to the quarterfinals while Lazio’s Champions League dreams are over for this season (even though there are two matches left, Leeds and Madrid have so many points the others can’t catch up). Final: 2-2 draw.

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Tue, Feb 20, 2001

: Bundesliga: Bayern Munich at Unterhaching

A slow game, with Bayern forgetting to show up. Unterhaching’s a tough, tenacious team, especially at home. The first half was a nil-nil draw, but in the second, Unterhacking put together a great series of passes which left Spizak open to shoot. He finished beautifully, putting the ball past a diving Oliver Khan. Bayern fought back, but it seemed like destiny was against them this day. Final: 1-0 Unterhaching.

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: Serie A: Bologna at A.C. Milan

I managed to stay awake through this one. Partly because I got up and had a late supper (soup, of course, since I’m sick), but also because the game was so exciting. Milan was out for revenge, having lost the game at Bologna earlier in the season, and they started off with two cheeky goals against the run of play by Shevchenko. It looked like it was all Milan, and though Bologna had been playing well, they’d given up two goals. Then, late in the first half, Cipriani pushed into the box and forced Italian great Pablo Maldini to foul him. The ref awarded a penalty, and just before the half, it seemed like the idea time to narrow the lead. But the Bologna player missed the penalty kick! So it was still a two-goal lead for Milan. In the second half, however, as the commentators were complimenting Cipriani’s play (this was only his sixth Serie A appearance and his first start), he scored a goal. Scoring a goal in your first start is incredible, and Cipriani was ecstatic. But there was more. In the 75th minute, Cipriani leaped up to intercept a cross, beating Maldini, and caught the ball perfectly with his head. It ricochetted into the net with the force of a kick! Bologna had come back from two down to tie the score! Cipriani was suddenly a Bologna hero. Tears were running down his face as he celebrated his score. Unbelievable to do that your first start. That just doesn’t happen except in books. But Cipriani wasn’t done. As Bologna pressed, he managed to draw a defender away, leaving space for Signori, who put in a third for Bologna. The Bologna bench and fans were mad with joy. This was unheard of, to come to power-house Milan and beat them on their own turf (and hadn’t happened since the 1960s), especially starting the game two goals down. But the joy was pre-mature. Though only seconds remained in the game, a mistake by Olive, substituted just a minute earlier for Locatelli, who’d pulled his hamstring, gave the ball to Sala, who tied the score for Milan. Twenty minutes earlier Bologna would have been delighted with a tie, and Milan crushed, but now it was Milan who breathed a sigh of relief and Bologna who were disappointed to come so close and miss victory. Great game! Final: 3-3.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: Portland Trip

Friday I flew up to Oregon for the three-day weekend. The flight up was delayed for an hour by an “emergency”… the coffee pot was broken (we also didn’t have a pilot, but that was a minor detail). By Sunday I had caught my uncle’s flu, and Monday evening I was not feeling well at all. For some reason my stomach was ridiculously upset. I totally felt like vomiting even before I got on the plane (which was thirty minutes late departing). The flight was hell. I threw up once in the bathroom, and I couldn’t sleep at all. Just miserable. When we finally got near SFO, the pilot came on and said we were going into a holding pattern because of bad weather at SFO they wouldn’t let us land. After thirty minutes of that, they decided to land at Oakland airport instead, as we were running out of fuel. That descent, through a violent rainstorm, was worse than hell. At one point we dropped 20 feet in half-a-second. All the passengers gasped and I saw the people in front of me rise up out of their seats we dropped so fast. If I hadn’t been so sick, I’d have been terrified. As it was, crashing seemed like a pleasant alternative. I don’t really remember the actually touchdown, which occurred a few minutes later, as I had my head in the barf bag. Once we’ve arrived at Oakland, we were told the plane would refuel and in one to three hours we’d head to SFO, once the weather cleared. Well, it was already almost midnight. Waiting for several more hours before I could get to my car and drive two hours home in my condition did not seem like a great plan. And knew positively, absolutely, that I was not going to survive another take-off and landing that night. So I deplaned at Oakland and called my Aunt, who was gracious enough to pick me up and let me stay at her place. On Tuesday she gave me a ride to SFO where I got my car to come home. Now I’m in bed, trying to recover from this flu. I only slept twelve hours yesterday, I think I’ll go back to bed.

Topic: [/travel]

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Thu, Feb 15, 2001

: EPL: Coventry at West Ham

This game was a lot of hard work with very little payoff. But when it came, it was sweet indeed. West Ham struggled against bottom-of-the-league Coventry, but couldn’t break them until very late in the game. Joe Cole cleaned up a mess in the box by side footing the ball into the goal. Very nice. For Coventry, it certainly looked like they are heading for Division One next year. But miraculously, with thirty seconds to go, they came up with a goal! Eustice headed in a weak ball that came off his shoulder but it went in. Like they say about airplane landings, any goal that counts is a good one. Final: 1-1 West Ham.

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: Bundesliga: Bayern Munich at Stuttgart

An affair you’d expect top Bayern to win and sure enough, Elber started things off just seven minutes in. A simple pass put three Bayern players behind the Stuttgart defense, and Elber was open for a tap-in. But that seemed to be enough for Bayern: they clearly dominated, though Stuttgart had some chances in the second half, and that was all they wanted. Final: 1-0 Bayern.

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Wed, Feb 14, 2001

: La Liga: Villarreal at Oviedo

Great game. Villarreal just signed Martin Palermo from Boca Juniors; this was his second game. It started off badly for the visitors, however: in the dying seconds of the first half Oviedo was awarded a penalty kick because of a hand ball in the box. Worse, the player received his second yellow: he was sent off. So Villarreal was going to have to play the entire second half with ten men and a goal down. How could they come back? Well, whatever the coach said sure worked! Villarreal not only came back, they walloped Oviedo. It started when Palermo got his first La Liga goal: it was a cheeky poach goal, with him sticking his foot out to catch the end of a bouncing ball off a corner kick. You’ve got to clear those corner kicks, Oviedo! Then Unai scored just three minutes later on a free kick. Eight minutes after that Jorge Lopez added one of his own and Oviedo was down and out. I love comebacks! Final: 3-1 Villarreal.

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: EPL: Manchester United at Chelsea

Cool game, though once again Man. U’s luck goes farther than it should. Chelsea took the lead on a goal from Hasselbaink: it was a gift from Paul Scholes. He tried to head the ball back to his keeper, but it went right to Hasselbaink and he headed it forward into the goal. It took United a while to get back from that, and it could have been all over early in the second half when Zola’s goal was called back. He and the United keeper were by the corner flag and Zola won, kicking the ball toward the empty goal. It went in. But the ref said the ball had gone out near the corner so the goal didn’t count. I think the ref was right, but it was a close call. The two teams battled furiously after that, then Cole was given a nice through-pass from Giggs and he equalized with his first touch. That was it. Final: 1-1.

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Mon, Feb 12, 2001

: Serie A: Roma at Bologna

Roma’s just unstoppable. Bologna’s a good team, but they’ve been struggling of late, and Roma made them look like a Serie B team. The game started off quickly with a penalty kick awarded to Roma, and Batistuta easily put it away. Then a Bologna player stupidly kicked a Roma player while the whole world watched. He tried to do it sneakily, but it was obvious was he was doing. He was immediately given a red card and he had the gall to argue! Down to ten men, Bologna had an uphill battle, and that was made even worse since they couldn’t control the Roma team. In one of the most brilliant displays of teamwork I’ve ever seen, the Roma players took the ball into the Bologna penalty area and dribbled it around, passing and shooting at will. The ball kept ping-ponging around, resembling a pinball machine. Somehow, though, the ball always returned to a Roma player. Finally it fell to the Brazilian Emerson, back for his first game since being sidelined with a terrible knee injury, and he quickly drilled the ball into the back of the net. Very cool, very deserved. In the second half, Roma came back with a goal stolen by Brioschi, but Roma just clammed up and wouldn’t let anything else go through. And that was that. Final: 2-1 Roma.

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Sun, Feb 11, 2001

: Bundesliga: Energie Cottbus at Eintracht Frankfurt

Odd game. A real scraper at the bottom of the league, so that was interesting, but there was only one goal, which was frustrating because the game deserved more for all the hard effort put in. Heldt scored for Frankfurt in the 65th minute, and it was a good goal, but Cottbus never really got into the game. Final: 1-0 Frankfurt.

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Sat, Feb 10, 2001

: Hannibal

Author: Thomas Harris (novel)

Director: Ridley Scott

First, let me say I liked the book — most critics did not. The film is very similar to the book, except at the very end. Why they changed the ending, I don’t know: I thought that was the crux of the book. For me, it was Harris’ statement about society and the way we celebrate and glorify criminals (haven’t you seen a Charles Manson T-shirt?). But I can see why people didn’t like the book — it’s very different from Silence of the Lambs. That didn’t bother me; I liked the humor and cheesy thrills. Harris gave the audience exactly what they wanted: a sequel, with lots of Hannibal.

That said, the early buzz on the film was that it wasn’t going to be good. So I wanted to see it early, before I had my mind distorted by the media. I’m glad I did, because I liked the movie. It was loyal to the book in most regards, and well-directed and written. It would have been better with the original ending, and there were some confusing and rushed portions: Mason Verger’s gory history was poorly edited and incomprehensible for those who haven’t read the book, and the new ending was filled with bizarre inaccuracies and “clever” plot points which made no sense. The film is certainly not going to win Oscars for anyone; it is not the least bit ground-breaking like the earlier film. But it’s a fun ride. Think of it like the new super roller coaster put in to replace the old one. There are many of the same thrills, and it’s good fun, but it will never be as good as the original.

Topic: [/movie]

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: Life on Earth

Great film if you love Africa, especially West Africa. Part of the “Celebration 2000” event, this was directed by a West African to show his view of the changeover to 2000. He lives in Europe and shows comparisons between the fast-paced, product-filled life of Europe versus the monotony of life in the African bush. His conclusion is appropriate: that the year 2000 means nothing in the bush, that nothing will change, and things won’t get better. I don’t take quiet such a negative view of bush life (it strikes me as almost idyllic in many ways, though of course starving isn’t fun). The photography is spectacular, especially on the widescreen DVD. There’s lots of humor (telephone communication madness, colorful black-and-white photography, etc.). Excellent. Only an hour long, it feels much longer as much of it is designed to show the slow, boring life of an African village. The film made me homesick (I grew up in West Africa).

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Tue, Feb 06, 2001

: EPL: Everton at Manchester United

Pretty good game, though unfair for Everton, since they dominated the game. But once again, Man. U.’s luck runs strong. Cole put in a shot early in the second half and when an Everton defender tried to block it, it deflect into his own goal. After that, Man. U. just held on. American Joe-Max Moore got to start this game, and he had a few good moves, including a terrific shot which was saved by the keeper. Final: 1-0 Manchester United.

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Mon, Feb 05, 2001

: Serie A: Roma at Parma

Excellent game. Roma had the initial momentum, but then, amazingly, Captain Totti missed his penalty kick! (He’s normally a perfect penalty kick taker.) Parma took momentum from that to score their own goal, by DiVaio in the 36th minute. Roma fought back in the second half, but while exciting, nothing was going in. Then Batistuta decided to get involved. In the 74th minute he put in a fantastic volley to tie the score. Even more amazing, nine minutes later, he did the same thing again! Incredible goals. Final: 2-1 Roma.

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Sun, Feb 04, 2001

: Serie A: Juventus at Atalanta

Amazing game, with everything on top. Juventus is almost always good, but Atalanta, though they started off the season well, have been struggling of late. Both are near the top of the table. The first hour of this game was routine, with neither team dominating or creating much. But then, late in the game, both teams started to play. Juventus began pushing forward aggressively, and this paid off when a gorgeous cross from Zinedine Zidane was missed by Inzaghi but headed into the goal by an opponent (Paganin). With that lead, you’d expect Juventus to win handily, as they are infamous for 1-0 victories. But just seconds later, in the 75th minute, Atalanta struck back. Off the kickoff the ball was played down the right wing, and eventually a cross was put into the box. In his first touch on the ball, substitution Lorenzi leaped up and headed the ball toward the goal. It arched over Van der Sar’s 10-foot stretch, struck the underside of the crossbar, and dropped into the goal. Amazing! With the score tied, everything went berserk. The ref shoved Davitz for no reason (as if the ref should be assaulting players for any reason), and Juve’s Kovacevic almost scored on a bicycle kick that cleared off the goalline. Then, in a tight offside call that wasn’t called, Ventola was let through with the ball, to go one-on-one with Van der Sar. The Dutch keeper’s good, but the player’s got a huge advantage, and Ventola gave his side the game winner with eight minutes left. Incredible game. Final: 2-1 Atalanta.

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: Bundesliga: Hamburg at Werder Bremen

Cool game. I’m a Hamburg fan, and I thought they were going to take this one, but they let me down. Still, it was a good game. Bremen started things off with a brilliant free kick goal right at the stroke of halftime. Literally. It was the last play of the half. Pizarro’s kick went right into the corner, where Hamburg keeper Butt couldn’t possibly get it. But Hamburg came back in the second half with a great goal from Heinz. The ball basically bounced around in the box a bit, then was passed to the top of the key where a running Heinz blasted it. No chance for the keeper. Heinz had two more great attempts that were stopped by Roos, Bremen’s keeper, who made a number of great saves and I think was their most valuable player. But Ailton scored on a questionable penalty kick in the 76th minute, and then Pizarro got his second in injury time to put the matter beyond doubt. He ran up the left flank without a single player marking him! Final: 3-1 Werder Bremen.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: Meet the Feebles

Director: Peter Jackson

Wow, what a wickedly perverse, freaked out film! If this had been done with human actors it would have been extreme, but not this extreme. This is the equivalent of finding your favorite children’s cartoon character in a bar, swearing, drunk, and high on crack while raping a woman.

Australia director Jackson (who’s now filming Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy) brilliantly satires everything under the sun by doing the film with puppets. Watching puppets behave like disgusting humans (complete with foul language, vomiting, bowel movements, crude sex, drug abuse, and violence) really shows you the insanity of society. Trust me — watching various animal muppets get their heads blown off by a submachine gun will change your perspective on life (either for the better or the worse). Not for the faint of heart, but hilarious for those who can handle it. It’s like a cross between a perverted Alice in Wonderland and South Park (there are several wicked songs, though I didn’t find this film as offensive as South Park, because here there’s a satirical purpose).

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Sat, Feb 03, 2001

: EPL: Arsenal at Coventry City

Good game, though not many goals. By the look of things Coventry is on their way out of the Premiere League, while Arsenal wants to show they are the second best team in England. Coventry dominated possession, though Arsenal never seemed flustered by that. While Coventry had some good chances, Arsenal’s were a lot better quality. They finally converted on a 78th minute header by Bergkamp. Magnus Hedman, Coventry’s Swedish goal-keeper (a favorite of mine), was amazing, doing a number of tip-overs and one-handed stops from close range. He kept the score respectable from Coventry’s viewpoint, though that doesn’t help their league standings. I don’t recall any significant saves from Arsenal’s Seaman. Final: 1-0 Arsenal.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: International Friendly: USA vs. Columbia

In this warm up for World Cup qualifying later this month, the U.S. did well. Not great, but decent. We fielded mostly MLS kids, as our international stars are busy in leagues overseas, and there was some impressive play. The U.S. dominated for the first 15 minutes of each half, but slowed down after that, allowing Columbia time to get comfortable. In particular, we took very few long shots (or shots at all), a criticism I’ve often made of the U.S. We need forwards who aren’t afraid to shoot. We’ve got a few players who don’t mind shooting, like Cobi Jones and Clint Mathis, but neither play forward. Some of the younger players, like Josh Wolff, will take shots, but their experience is limited and they tend to miss. That just means they should shoot twice as often! Anyway, in this game Columbia didn’t play as strongly as I expected, though there were some excellent players. They beat us on the counter, scoring mid-way through the second half, and defended heavily after that. It was a good experience for the U.S. players. They need to feel the desperation and frustration of losing against a quality opponent. Next up is USA vs. Mexico in a critical World Cup Qualifier on Feb. 28 (airing on ESPN2). Final: 1-0 Columbia.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Fri, Feb 02, 2001

: Bundesliga: B. Dortmund at 1860 Munich

These two teams have reversed their fortunes from last season, with Dortmund just one point away from leading the league and 1860 down in the cellar. With that the case, it seemed like an easy win for Dortmund, but they didn’t show up. Oh, sure, they had a few chances, but it was 1860 who attacked constantly and deserved the three points. 1860’s attack wasn’t really successful, but at least they were trying. They finally got their goal via a questionable penalty kick awarded in the 53 minute: Thomas “The Little General” Hassler took it well. I figured that Dortmund would surely rebound after that, but they played as though they’d already lost. Final: 1-0 1860 Munich.

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Thu, Feb 01, 2001

: Annie Hall

Author: Woody Allen

Director: Woody Allen

Pretty good Allen film, though it gets weaker as it goes along. Allen plays a comedian who’s a loser at romance (there’s something new) and he walks us through his life in retrospect. That’s the best, because he frequently breaks down the wall between the camera and the audience, talking directly to the viewer, and intruding his present-day character upon his past-day character, and making snide remarks. Some good wit, cool cameos by big stars, but all the self-introspection gets old after a while, and the ending is flat. Worth seeing, though, especially if you like Allen’s humor.

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Wed, Jan 31, 2001

: The Third Man

Author: Graham Greene

I don’t always like old “classic” films, but this one doesn’t feel dated at all. It’s in lovely black and white, filled with shadows, which makes the performances all the more dramatic. The story is set in Vienna during WWII, when it was controlled by four powers: American, British, French, and Russian. The black market ruled. The main character, an American writer of western novels, arrives because his old pal promised him a job. He gets there only to find his friend was killed by a car a few days earlier. The circumstances are mysterious, so he investigates, and what he uncovers… well, see the film. It’s an interesting and unusual story, with poignant and profound moments, and some excellent thrills. Most dramatic of all is the incredible music: all performed on a zither, which has a unique and haunting sound.

Topic: [/movie]

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: EPL: Manchester United at Sunderland

Man. U. dominated as you might expect, but they didn’t score. But after a 0-0 first half, they came out on fire, with Andy Cole scoring forty-four seconds in! Sunderland tried to keep Man. U. at bay and succeeded, even getting a few chances of their own, but couldn’t break down the United defense. Toward the end of the game Cole and a Sunderland player got into a ruckus and were both sent off — rather extreme, but their behavior wasn’t that intelligent either. Final: 1-0 Man. U.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Tue, Jan 30, 2001

: Argentine: River Plate at Boca Juniors

Back again with more of the same, hopefully this time without the fan violence. Boca was looking good when 27 minutes in good play brought forth a clever goal. Riquelme, considered by many the best player in Argentina, received a header from a teammate with his side to the goal. Falling down he flipped the ball awkwardly backward as his body got out of the way, and it went right into the goal! Very cool, and quite cheeky. River were stunned. In the second half, Boca went further ahead with a goal from Rodriguez 62 minutes in, but River countered that with a goal from Cardetti twelve minutes later. But that was it for the scoring. Final: 2-1 Boca.

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Mon, Jan 29, 2001

: Serie A: Lazio at Fiorentina

Wonderful game! It started off a bit slow, with Fiorentina dominating, but Lazio showed real fire with the Nedved/Salas combination. That duo paid off thirty-four minutes in when Salas ran up the left wing and put back a beautiful arching ball toward the top of the key. Nedved ran onto it and delivered one of the most incredibly volleys I have ever seen, putting in a laser beam into the back of the net before the keeper could even blink. Fiorentina fought back, but there were no more goals in that half. Crespo had a chance early in the second half, but fluffed it, but not long after took a clever feed from — who else — Nedved, who was everywhere on the pitch today, and beat the keeper at his near post. Crespo got his second fifteen minutes later, when he had the chance to feed Salas but didn’t, taking the shot himself from an awkward angle, but Toldo couldn’t hold the ball and it dribbled into the goal. With less than ten minutes left Fiorentina got their chance on a penalty kick which Chiesa easily put away, but minutes after that hard-working playmaker Salas accepted the ball from teammate Crespo and nailed his own well-deserved goal from twenty yards out. Incredible. If Salas, Nedved, and Crespo play like this the rest of the season, Lazio’s going to win the championship again, no question. Final: 4-1 Lazio.

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Sun, Jan 28, 2001

: Serie A: Perugia at Regina

Poor Regina. Not only do they not get respect from the top clubs, but lowly Perugia comes along to punish them as well! Materazzi started things off twenty minutes in, and six minutes before the end of the half Liverani scored his first of the year on a nice free kick. In the second half Regina fought hard but there was no way Perugia was going to give up that much momentum. Final: 2-0 Perugia.

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: Marty

Author: Paddy Chayevsky

I’ve been wanting to see this film for ages, though I really didn’t know what it was about. I knew it won Oscars for best film, director, and actor (Ernest Borgnine). The story is great: very low key, about a humble butcher (Borgnine) who at 34 lives with his mother and isn’t married. The film seems predictable — Marty finds a humble school teacher and they develop a relationship — yet some how it is fascinating. I watched for about twenty minutes and then realized I’d really been watching for forty-five; I hadn’t even noticed. Very sweet, simple, and elegant, with humor, gentleness, and some valuable life lessons. Well worth your time.

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Sat, Jan 27, 2001

: Bundesliga: Kaiserslauten at Wolfsburg

This was a real battle, played in a blinding snow storm. The Red Devils dominated, and when Wolfsburg had a player sent off late in the first half, it seemed like surely they would succeed. But neither team could gain the advantage, and Kaiserslauten finally had their own man sent off, evening the number of players. While the game ended without a goal, it was still a pretty good game, with some nice chances. The terrible weather no doubt had an influence on the lack of goals. Final: 0-0 draw.

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Fri, Jan 26, 2001

: Bundesliga: Hansa Rostock at Schalke

The Bundesliga’s back! The Bundesliga’s back! After half a season of missing on Fox Sports World, German soccer is back. And it’s good. Schalke is the league leader while Rostock is struggling at the bottom. This first game after the winter break proved that that’s the way things would remain. Just four minutes in Bohme scored on a wonderful free kick, and Nemeo added to it an hour or so in. Rostock never had a chance. Final: 2-0 Schalke.

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Thu, Jan 25, 2001

: Argentine: Boca Juniors at River Plate

Odd game. Part of the “Tourno de Verano,” a sort of mini-tournament between seasons (the Argentina league has two game seasons, the Apertura and Clousura, the Opening and Closing). Anyway, Boca finally scored late in the game on a somewhat questionable offside decision, but minutes later fans rioted and began throwing rocks onto the field and the game was called off. I say that’s incredibly dumb, because it was the River fans who were doing the violence, and they took away any chance of River getting back into it by making the game end early! Stupid. Final: 1-0 Boca, game in the suspended 80th minute.

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Wed, Jan 24, 2001

: EPL: Newcastle United at Leeds

Usually missing the first few minutes of a soccer game doesn’t mean much, but in this case, it did, as Leeds started off with a bang when Keane scored just two minutes in. Unfortunately, that was as good as it got for Leeds, because Newcastle shut the door and went on offense. Just two minutes later Solano finished of a penalty kick for Newcastle, leveling things, and just before the half Acuna scored to put them up by one. That’s the way it stayed for most of the game, but very late, with just minutes to go, Ameobi put the matter beyond doubt with a nice grounder. Final: 3-1 Newcastle.

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Tue, Jan 23, 2001

: CONCACAF Champions Cup: LA Galaxy v Olimpia

Cool game with plenty of goals. Things started off poorly for LA when Lalas, back after a year’s retirement, handled the ball in the box. Tosello converted the penalty in the 34th minute. But just two minutes later, Lalas pushed forward aggressively, no doubt wanting to make up for his mistake, and managed to head the ball into the box where Hendrickson headed it home to level the score. The move gave the Galaxy momentum, and a few minutes later Lalas assisted Cobi Jones on his amazing goal where he literally threaded the needle to slot the ball home. The angle was so acute an inch to either side and his shot wouldn’t have gone in! In the second half, Olimpia came back with a header goal, but some how the Galaxy were still winning, despite the even score. Hendrickson proved it by getting his second at the 78th minute, and it proved to be the tournament winner. LA gets to go to Spain this summer as the champions, and they take home their first hardware. Final: 3-2 LA Galaxy.

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Mon, Jan 22, 2001

: Serie A: Roma at A.C. Milan

What a match! With Roma leading the league by a comfortable margin they seemed unstoppable. Until today. The first goal came three minutes in on a glorious free kick by Milan’s Leonardo (one of my all-time favorite players, though the Brazilian doesn’t see much playing time any more — perhaps he ought to come play in Major League Soccer, hint hint). Then Shevchenko beat Roma’s offside trap to dribble in an easy one eighteen minutes later. Roma really poured it on after that, with Batistuta missing several excellent chances, but always looking dangerous. But it was captain Totti that did the trick: a blast from way out that gained from a slight deflection from defender Maldini to confuse the keeper and slide into a corner of the net. With just five minutes to go, Roma smelled a resurgence. But moments later Shevchenko took advantage of a open ball at the front of the net to put Milan back in front by two goals. In the second half, Milan sat back while Roma worked and worked. The effort paid off when a penalty kick was awarded and Totti made short of it (bringing him to nine goals on the season, just one behind teammate Batistuta). But that was in the 85th minute and there just wasn’t enough time for Roma to equalize, and they go down for only their second loss of the season. Final: 3-2 Milan.

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: EPL: Manchester City at Derby County

What in the world happened with this game? The first half was dull beyond words, without hardly a chance on either goal. The second half started off with a goal for each team within two minutes! Powell got a goal in the 49th minute, but ecstasy turned to dismay two minutes later when Howay equalized for Man. City. There was a bit of spark after that, but both teams seemed happy with the draw. Final: 1-1.

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: EPL: West Ham at Charlton

South African Shawn Bartlett scored for Charlton just seven minutes in by getting a few steps on his man on the right wing, and angling in a rolling grounder past the keeper. West Ham had a few chances, but couldn’t do much with them. In the second half, Joe Cole had a terrific dead-on chance, but Charlton’s Andy Todd made an incredible save on the goal line with his chest! (The temptation to use his hands must have been tremendous, but somehow he resisted.) West Ham dominated, and finally Di Canio took the ball, ran parallel to the goal for a few steps, then turned in a brilliant shot from twenty yards out that went right into the upper corner. A really impressive effort! Charlton, however, is not a team that gives up. They fought back with their typical heart, scraping, but it was not to be. Final: 1-1.

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Sun, Jan 21, 2001

: Serie A: Intermilan at Lazio

Average game, with Inter looking decidedly below average. Crespo got open five minutes in and finished easily, putting Lazio comfortably in front. They controlled the game after that, setting the pace, and though Inter tried, they never really got things going. Inter didn’t play badly, just not as good as they used to play. Late in the second half a penalty kick by Salas put the matter beyond doubt. Final: 2-0 Lazio.

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: CONCACAF Champions Cup: DC United v LA Galaxy

LA seemed to want the win more than DC, and really battled, but it didn’t get them much. They were awarded a penalty kick in the first half, and converted it nicely, but DC was awarded a very questionable one in the second half (and converted it nicely). With a 1-1 score at the end, we went to penalty kicks, and once again, LA won (needing only four kicks). The Galaxy advance to the World Club Championships in Spain this summer, but first they play Olimpia for the first place title.

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: Seconds

Director: John Franenheimer

I’d heard of this and wanted to see if for some time. It’s an unusual movie. The direction and dramatic music are overdone: you keep expecting something fantastic to happen, but nothing much does. It’s still good, just not great. The plot is about a man who gets a mysterious phone call from an old friend… and old friend who’s been dead for years. The man goes to a place specified by the friend and it turns out it’s a company that will “kill” you and give you a new identity, a new start on life. I guess the “seconds” in the title has nothing to do with time, but with a second chance. The ending typifies the film, by being predictable and overdone. Odd film. It has a great deal of potential that’s wasted. Favorite scene: when the man, now portrayed by Rock Hudson, visits his old wife (she thinks he’s dead).

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Fri, Jan 19, 2001

: CONCACAF Champions Cup: LA Galaxy v Real Espana

A boring first half led to chances in the second, but still no scoring. On penalty kicks, Real Espana’s Hector Gutierrez missed his kick, and all five Galaxy shooters made theirs, with Sasha Victorine scoring the winner, so LA faces DC in the semifinal.

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: Trigun: The $60,000,000,000 Man

Odd Japanese animation that’s apparently a TV series. I liked the concept: bounty hunters are searching everywhere for Vash the Terrible who has a $60,000,000,000 reward on his head (dead or alive) and it turns out Vash is really an idiot who’s just lucky. Or is he? The series does a great job keeping you from knowing the truth: is he just insanely lucky or extremely skillful? For instance, he’ll walk into a room full of bandits armed with missiles and machine guns and he’ll walk out unharmed, all the bandits destroyed. A lot of the humor of the series doesn’t translate well, and speaking of translation, what is the deal with Japanese films and subtitling and dubbing? The dub track is completely different from the subtitle track: I mean completely different. One will used the word “worried” and the other “care.” Huh? Quite disconcerting.

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: CONCACAF Champions Cup: DC United v Alajuelense

DC lead early with a goal from Talley, but Alajuelense came back halfway through the second half with one of their own. It looked like we were going to penalty kicks. Then, in something you just can’t script, Ben Olsen came through with a header in injury time to give DC the win and advance to the semis.

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Wed, Jan 17, 2001

: Bananas

Author: Woody Allen

Director: Woody Allen

Terrific! Absurdly witty farce about a moron (Allen) who ends up becoming the leader of a small South American country. A bit silly toward the end, but has some classic moments. Favorite part: Allen’s “intellectual” conversation with his girlfriend where they both use $10 words that neither knows the meaning of. Hilarious!

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Mon, Jan 15, 2001

: EPL: Charlton at Southampton

I wasn’t excited about watching this game and it turned out for good reason. Let me just put it this way: Southampton were the exciting team in the match, if that tells you anything. Charlton never even bothered to attack. The zero-zero draw was rather boring, though there were a couple nice chances, but nothing beat either keeper.

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: Serie A: Bari at Roma

I expected this game to be high scoring: after all, it’s the league leaders against the team at the bottom of the league, but once again, nothing’s predictable in soccer. Bari played with heart, and Roma appeared to take the win too casually. The game didn’t get going until about 30 minutes in, but it was still highly dominated by Roma, though Bari managed a few times to make Roma’s keeper work for his pay. The first goal didn’t come until late in the second half, when, to the astonishment of Roma, Bari’s Mazzarelli brilliantly converted a free kick. After that Roma really began to try, but it seemed like too little too late. But then Bari gave Roma a gift by tripping Totti in the box, and Totti easily scored on the resulting penalty kick. The tie cut Roma’s lead in the league from 8 to six points, as Juventus won their weekend game.

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Sun, Jan 14, 2001

: Serie A: A.C. Milan at Fiorentina

What happened to Milan? They played like a Serie B team! Fiorentina continued their hot streak, scorching Milan from the 15th minute on. Gomes got the first goal when he snuck in a header, and Cois doubled the lead a minute into the second half when he got what appeared to be a harmless ball at the top of the box. But instead of dribbling and passing, he immediately shot — and scored! Chiesa, who’s been doing very well lately, got his goal twenty minutes later, on a nice little grounder. Finally, Rui Costa, the brilliant mid-field engine who’d been involved with every goal so far, got one for himself. He was open and one-on-one with the keeper, but confidently took a shot instead of passing it. Final: 4-0 Fiorentina.

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Sat, Jan 13, 2001

: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (again)

Director: Ang Lee

Even better the second time around. This time I could concentrate more on the action and acting than the subtitles, and I was pleased to see the subtle performances by Michelle Yeoh and the script’s terrific dialog. There were some plot points that confused me the first time, but on second viewing I was able to follow things better. Some of that comes from trying to follow plot while reading subtitles, and some comes from the Western eye not recognizing Chinese faces (if you’re not from a culture, faces often seem identical, particularly if you’re only given a quick initial glimpse). On the first viewing there were several characters I thought were different people but now I saw they were the same, which helped the plot make a bit more sense. Minor flaws, awesome movie.

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Fri, Jan 12, 2001

: Fist of Legend

Stupid title, but by far the best Jet Li film I’ve seen. The fighting is amazing: unless I’m mistaken, the fight choreographer is the same guy who did

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Thu, Jan 11, 2001

: The Train

Director: John Franenheimer

Why haven’t I ever heard of this film? Excellent, really superb! It’s a taut WWII drama about the French underground attempting to stop a train of priceless paintings (worth billions: stuff by Picasso, Cezane, Monet, etc.) from being shipped to Germany in the last days before the Allies regained Paris. The lengths these people go to to save these paintings are amazing — I won’t spoil it by describing it, but let’s just say it’s a plot involving hundreds of railway people deceiving the Germans by making them think the train’s on it’s way to Germany but really it’s going in the opposite direction! Excellent: a non-stop thriller! (And I don’t even like war movies.)

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Tue, Jan 09, 2001

: The Big Brass Ring

Author: Orson Wells (original script)

Very talky political movie about a guy running for governor who has a deep dark secret. We think it’s that he’s gay, but it turns out to be something else. Unfortunately we don’t find out for too long so the film’s boring, and by the time we do find out, we no longer care. The film’s dialogue and photography are all designed to make us think things of great import are happening, but who cares?

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Mon, Jan 08, 2001

: Serie A: Roma at Atalanta

The game started off with a blast with Delvecchio scoring his first goal of the season in the first minute! After that it was all Atalanta, who did everything but score. Then, late in the first half, Tommasi scored on a counter-attack to put Roma up by two. Atalanta fought back in the second half, but just couldn’t get anything going, even when Roma got a man ejected. Final: 2-0 Roma.

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Sun, Jan 07, 2001

: Degree of Guilt

Author: Richard North Patterson

Really excellent book. This one picks up after evil behavior of Mary Carelli as “amoral” — that’s in the same sentence where he suggests she might be a murderer — that’s a lawyer trick and so typical of what’s taught in schools these days, degrading morality into something gray and less than pure, that it made me want to puke). My original interest in Patterson came from a radio interview where he talked about his new book which deals with the abortion issue, something his publishers begged him not to write about, and even though it was obvious I disagree with his perspective, he sounded like he’d be fair and the concept was intriguing. After reading just a couple of his novels, I seriously doubt that he could be fair, though we’ll see. (What bothers me about bias in a novel like this is not that an author has an opinion: I have no problem with that, even if it’s an opinion I violently disagree with. My problem is when the author claims to be fair and “unbiased” when it is obvious they are not. If I write a book, for instance, I won’t claim to be the slightest bit objective: it will reflect my values and beliefs and that’s the way it should be. When authors claim to be “fair” and are not, they essentially are redefining the word fair, i.e. fair is when their point-of-view is subtly projected and yours is mitigated or mocked. All that said, I must say that Patterson is not the worst author in this regard, just one of the most subtle, and therefore devious. Keep that in mind when you read him.)

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: High Fidelity

Essentially this film is about a record store owner griping about his shabby love life and trying to figure out why girlfriends keep breaking up with him. What’s interesting is the perspective: John Cusack narrates directly into the camera, and his style of delivery and constant use of “Top Five” lists (best records, top five worst breakups, best jobs, etc.) is unusual. As for plot, there isn’t much of one. Towards the end the griping gets on your nerves and you’re ready to kick Cusack in the head for being such a moron, but finally he resolves his relationship and becomes an adult. Pretty good flick, especially interesting if you like music, though I’m not such a music geek as to actually have heard many of the albums and songs mentioned (my definition of “classic” music is music I’ve never heard of).

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Sat, Jan 06, 2001

: Serie A: Fiorentina at Juventus

TV Guide said there was no soccer game today, but when I tuned in mid-way, there was. Thus I missed the first three goals: Chiesa’s and Gomes’ for Fiorentina and Conte’s for Juventus. I was rather bummed, thinking that I’d missed most of the action. But in the second half, Juventus immediately tied the score on a penalty kick. That started him off on a tear, breaking his streak of poor scoring this season. He caught a fantastic volley at the top of the box to put Juventus ahead (remember, in the first 20 minutes they were down by two!). But not long after that Chiesa scored a terrific free kick to equalize the score again. With 30 minutes left I figured there’d be another goal, but that was it. Terrific game, well-deserved result. Final: 3-3.

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: Hellraiser

Author: Clive Barker

Director: Clive Barker

I like Clive Barker the writer and artist, but I hadn’t seen his movie. It’s actually pretty good, though in a gory fashion. It deals with a mysterious puzzle box that takes people into heaven/hell where monsters torture them for eternity. The people who open the box end up with more horror than they wanted. Kinda bizarre and flimsy concept, but the film is better than that: it primarily deals with a brother who was destroyed by the box coming back to life when given blood — he convinces his brother’s wife (with whom he had an affair) to kill people for him so he has more blood and can heal. Intriguing concept, and I liked the way the normal woman becomes a monster to help her former lover. The graphics were pretty good, too: the guy’s a walking skeleton but each dead man adds flesh. Quite horrible, but interestingly, I found the human woman more frightening.

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: EPL: Chelsea at Manchester United

This was a replay of September’s terrific Man. U./Chelsea clash, with goals galore. The 3-3 draw was great entertainment and well worth watching again.

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: Hellraiser II

Author: Clive Barker (story)

This picks up right where the other left off, with the daughter put into an asylum because they think she’s crazy with her story of the demons inside a box. It’s pretty much more of the same after that, with the evil woman who died in the first movie coming back to life the way the man did in the first one (she needs fresh blood to revive). The daughter is looking for the soul of her father, who’s in torment, but it turns out it was just a trick to get her back into the box. Okay. At least these are a different kind of horror film.

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Fri, Jan 05, 2001

: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Director: Clint Eastwood

Odd movie. Quirky and humorous, sort of like Northern Exposure of the South, yet about murder. The essential plot: a wealthy gay man is accused of killing his lover, but he claims self-defense. Well-done, but much of the focus is on the unusual local characters (the drag queen, the voodoo doctor) instead of the plot, which I found a little pointless. The murder itself was also strange: the timing of it made me think it was contrived and premeditated, but the wealthy guy did some incredibly stupid things that made him seem guilty, which was weird if he murdered with the intent of getting off. Apparently this is based on a true story: the book sounds better than the movie, which greatly condensed several trials.

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Wed, Jan 03, 2001

: The Cell

Director: Tarsem

A visually striking film, with interesting special effects, but not much of a story. Well, actually, the story sounds fascinating — a woman goes into a comatose serial killer’s mind in order to find out where he hid his latest victim — but doesn’t deliver as much as promised. If the film had a better script and a real story, it would help. It’s too one-dimensional, with all the psychological aspects of serial killing reduced to the obvious and routine (i.e. the killer was abused as a child). Not as bad as I’d heard, and the DVD’s got some good extra material on the creation of the special effects.

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Mon, Jan 01, 2001

: Last Night

Huh? Some sort of mishmash about the last day of the world. Why the world is ending is never clearly explained, though hinted at, yet why does the world choose to end exactly at midnight? The film explores the lives of various interrelated characters as they party, pray, or weep as the end draws near. No doubt it’s supposed to be profound, but I just couldn’t get into it. I didn’t care for most of the characters, and without a story driving the thing, everything was meaningless anyway. Boring and lame. A definite “must avoid” movie.

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: EPL: West Ham at Manchester United

Terrific game, significantly dominated by United. Just two minutes and fifteen seconds in United scored. Defender Rigobert Song (one of my favorite African players) made two mistakes in a row: clearing the ball to Beckham, who crossed the ball in, and when the ball was headed out, Song missed the tackle. That gave Solskjaer a second to shoot, and he didn’t miss. Yorke had a chance a few minutes later, and Beckham nearly scored on a free kick after that (Hislop made a great save). Song redeemed himself for his earlier mistake when he cleared Yorke’s header literally off the line with a flying volley, but minutes later he gave the ball away to Yorke who’s shot went just wide. So far, the game was totally one-sided, a Manchester shooting gallery. Then in a bizarre sequence, Philip Neville put in a lazy grounder from way out. None of his teammates reached the ball, and the West Ham defender only grazed the ball with his boot. Amazing, Hislop had gone near post and was wrong-footed: he scrambled to get back into time but couldn’t make it! The ball trickled across the line just inches from his outstretched hand. Crazy! I swear, I don’t think West Ham got the ball in United’s half of the field even once in the first 35 minutes! They finally got a shot on goal late, but it went straight to Bartez, United’s keeper. After that, it was all United again. In the second half, it was more of the same. United quickly pulled forward with another goal, a header by Yorke. Finally, with less than twenty to go, West Ham managed a Kanoute header on a corner kick to keep themselves in the game, but it was more loose defending on United’s part than brilliant play by West Ham. That was it as far as goals: an easy win for Man. U. Final: 3-1 United.

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