The Lombardi Project
On Sunday, September 9th, the NFL regular season, for all intents and purposes, begins. Yes, the Giants and Cowboys already played on Wednesday, but fans of the other 30 teams are salivating with anticipation as the 2012 season kicks off. I am absurdly excited for this year. Yes, expectations for my hometown Broncos are high – although seemingly only in Denver at this point – and that makes a colossal difference. Last year, going into the season, I was excited to watch football, but was as apathetic as I can ever remember about my own team. That changed during the season, but before it, I was resigned to watching the donkeys drop a huge deuce at midfield. Long story short, yes, this year I am excited for the Broncos and it only enhances my anticipation for the NFL as a whole. However, in general I am giddier about America’s most popular sport than I can remember in recent years.
Why? Honestly, being away from my sports here in Europe is starting to wear on me. When someone from Spain or wherever tells me, “I don’t understand your football,” it gets on my nerves. At first I didn’t mind, but after realizing it is a little bit of a slight against Americans as we don’t play “real” football at the highest level, it started to bug me. I have come to enjoy soccer very much, but for anyone to tell me those field fairies are playing “real” football and our warriors aren’t is a joke. If you watched the Olympics, you probably realized along with me that our Women’s National Team could take any Men’s European soccer club in a cage match any day. Those girls are fierce. These dudes are not.
Furthermore, football for many has become the one beacon of hope in the midst of all other sports disasters. When other things go downhill, at least we have football. I think this might be the biggest factor for me this year. My basketball team got bounced in the first round AGAIN. My hockey team (which I continue to care less and less about) finished another season of mediocrity. And my baseball team was the laughingstock of the entire league for 3 months this summer. I kept asking myself, “is it football season yet?”
Finally, I can answer, YES! It is football season, and my Broncos can win the whole thing. As I have said before, that doesn’t mean they will, but it means they can. Outside of BroncoNation, it doesn’t seem like anyone thinks that we have even a puncher’s chance. Which is ironic because when we signed Peyton Manning everyone crowned us AFC West champs. But ever since then, it’s been, “let’s nitpick every single detail about the Broncos to prove they have no chance.” Let us go through some of these points:
Even if Peyton Manning returns to his 2010 form, he wasn’t actually that good. Really? You mean the season when he passed for 4,700 yards, 33 TD, and 17 INT. The season when he led the Colts to their 9th consecutive 10-win season, and was only one year removed from his 4th league MVP. Is that the season you speak of? I’ll take that every day and twice on Sundays. Literally.
Yes, but what if he gets hurt? I assume you are talking about his neck, which I concede scares any Bronco fan. However, if it is something apart from his neck, does that mean Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, or even his brother Eli don’t have an equal chance of being injured? Before his neck surgeries Peyton never missed a game in his entire career.
Peyton isn’t used to the new guys, so they will struggle. Certainly a case could be made for this for a few weeks. But after that, I don’t see it. Over a 16 game season, don’t you think he’ll figure it out? If you don’t then you haven’t ever watched Peyton Manning play.
The defense is average. I disagree. At times last year, the defense seemed porous; however it was that same defense that saved our asses more than once. And they have improved. There are more run-stuffers on the line, and although we might miss D.J. Williams while he is serving his 6-game suspension (for being a moron – not really, but basically), the linebackers can handle it. It may not be a super deep unit, but if Von Miller improves at all against the run, he might be the best defensive player in the NFL by the end of the year. Elvis Dumervil is healthy again, and for some reason people have forgotten that the Broncos have the best cornerback in the history of the game playing for us. He is older, but I’ll give you Asomugha, Haden, Flowers, and Woodson, and I’ll take Champ Bailey. I’ll give Revis his due, but he’s the only one that I MIGHT take over Champ. Champ does this thing most other cornerbacks forgot how to do long ago, tackle. So overall, I think the defense will be plenty fine, especially under Jack Del Rio. He just looks like a bad dude on the sidelines.
But the second-team looked weak in the preseason. Because teams depleted with injuries have a great track record when it comes to winning the Super Bowl. I concede, if there are multiple major injuries (obviously Manning included), the Broncos will not win the Super Bowl.
Ok fine, the team is pretty good, but that schedule is brutal. True. But can this be the only good argument? First of all, all the Broncos have to do to win the Super Bowl is get in the playoffs. In the past, being a wild card was a consolation prize. It meant you were in the playoffs but were definitely not going the distance. However, that clearly isn’t the case anymore. The Giants JUST did it. And actually, the Broncos did it once for their first championship in 1998 (1997 season). Furthermore, the Broncos best chance this year is most likely winning the division. Everyone has to play each other twice, and everyone has to play the same two divisions outside of your own. For the AFC West this year it is the AFC North and the NFC South. (More or less) same schedule, 4 teams. Do the other juggernauts scare you? Let’s see, Kansas City. That Matt Cassel is pretty sweet. Oakland. Carson Palmer combined with the Raiders organization makes my argument for me. San Diego. Are you ready to pick the Chargers after they inexplicably kept Norv Turner? And after they have been favored for the past millennium to win the Super Bowl and have excelled in displays of epic failure? Good luck. With that.
So I’m picking the Broncos to win the division. After that, who knows? I certainly won’t pick them to win the Super Bowl. That’s a terrible omen. But hopefully Peyton will be “comfortable” enough and the team can ride a hot quarterback all the way. That is the formula these days.
I’m taking a deep breath and being thankful that football season is finally upon us. After last year I was a little bummed to see Tebow go. However now, I can see clearly, and I know that we would have never won a title with him at QB. I wanted to believe, and did for a long while, but I can see clearly. We are now in the more than capable hands of Peyton Williams Manning. Look at that, we share a name. Coincidence? Probably. But let’s get this over with and get this shit started.
The Lombardi Project.
Why do we watch Hard Knocks? Sure, if it is your team, you’re watching, but HBO has never covered my team. Actually, once they covered a team that I hate, and even if I don’t hate that season’s team, I certainly don’t care. For example, the Dolphins this year. I’ll get into more of their boringness later, but I could care less about the Dolphins. Last year, there was no Hard Knocks because of the lockout, so the most recent installment before this year would have been the Jets in 2010. They were interesting for certain, but not anywhere near the circus they are now. We don’t care about these teams (at least most of us), but we watch. And it’s definitely not just me, as HBO wouldn’t keep making the show if it wasn’t killing in the ratings.
My other conundrum would be, why do these teams let us in? If the Dolphins hadn’t done the show this year, nobody would be talking about them. Ever. Some would say you want that publicity. However, after watching this incarnation of Hard Knocks the only publicity the Dolphins are getting (and rightfully so) is wow, they are going to be bad. Like really, really bad.
Let’s assess. Their receivers are awful. Nobody really knows who they are, and the only one who people did know – Chad Johnson, formerly Chad Ocho “kiss the baby” cinco – head-butted his wife so they had to cut him. Which, by the way, was absolutely the right thing to do. Their running back makes more headlines in the tabloids than on the field, although Reggie Bush claims that he will “lead the league in rushing.” Right Reggie; and I’ll get my wish of having a toilet made out of solid gold. Their defense traded away its best player because he’s a dipshit and forgot to come into training camp in shape. And….the quarterback. Mike Sherman (Miami’s offensive coordinator) was Ryan Tannehill’s coach in college, which is not a coincidence. Somehow the other coaches also “fell in love” with the quarterback who for the most part was a receiver in college and who doesn’t know who plays where in the NFL. Maybe that doesn’t exactly translate to failure on the field, but it is not a good sign. Tannehill said “I wasn’t a big NFL fan growing up.” Guess what dude, you’re a top 10 pick, if you’re acting dumb now would be the time to stop. Furthermore, the rest of how he comes off on the show makes his HOT new wife seem like more of a babysitter than a significant other.
Ok, so that’s out of the way. The Dolphins are going to suck. But, like I said, it doesn’t really matter to me. If they suck, if they’re great, if they’re alright but basically average. It’s all gravy. I don’t hate them, I don’t care for them. But I watch, and I get excited to watch. Why? We love football. Football has become as American as anything else we have. Hard Knocks is there to tell us that our gladiators are also normal people. I really enjoy getting some of the back stories, which is definitely what humanizes these players the most. They have families just like us, and they experience off-the-field problems just like us. We also watch because we get to see things with the coaching staff, their meetings, inside the locker rooms, and other general day-to-day operations that we would never have any idea about if the cameras weren’t there. In some ways I think we extrapolate the things we see and apply them to our own team. We say, oh, this is how this works, and this is how that works. Does my team do the same? Do they do it better? Worse? So, I guess in a way even though we may not care about the teams that are on Hard Knocks everything reverts back to our basic instincts.
Like I said, we love football. And as the show comes on concurrent with training camps, perhaps it makes us that much more excited. Count me as one of those knuckleheads who can’t get enough of it. The Dolphins may suck this year, but I’ll say thanks for making me want to yell, ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?
PS - Why else do we watch Hard Knocks? Because Liev Schreiber’s voice is like butter.
True Blood: A Three-Quarters Assessment
Of a typical 12 episode season for True Blood (and most summer shows for that matter), here we stand 9 deep with the last 3 remaining. I chose to write this piece and reflection about the current season of the show at this time because this is usually when the plot starts to lose its understanding of boundaries and go straight up bananas. For the most part, the homestretch of a True Blood season is really enjoyable in this way. All hell breaks loose, and just before we see the point of no return, the writing team corrals everything in time to set up details and hints about the next season. Based on where this season has been, is, and is going, I’m not sure I’m ready or that much anticipating what the resolution will look like. There have been instances along the way where I felt like I had the old show back, but for all the times its peered towards the edge over the course of almost 5 full seasons, my gut tells me my interest may be slowly slipping for good now.
The start of any season of True Blood up to this point has me intrigued and to a certain extent mad with anticipation. There were signs from season 4 (the were-panther arc, the end of the Marnie story, countless plot holes without explanation) that could have hinted that the show was losing its way, but I repressed those thoughts in favor of happier ones as to not cloud any judgment. And then came the first episode. IMHO, an absolute dud. At no point did I say to myself, “Awesome!” It was more like, “Is this what the whole season is going to be like?” There was the revelation that Tara was alive, a total bummer for me – ironically her arc has been one thing I’ve really enjoyed this season – because she was my least favorite character; sounds harsh, but it’s a TV show, come on. Then the anticipation left from last season’s finale about Russell only to realize he didn’t show up here (or the next few hours either). And of course, the extremely odd part with Steve Newlin and his obsession with Jason. We knew he was going to be a vampire, but their immediate direction with him was very anti-climactic.
To the show’s credit, the next few episodes definitely picked up the pace, only to seemingly plateau again soon after. We had the stagnant arc of Terry and that guy from Felicity going all PTSD, simultaneously accompanied by Bill and Eric’s and their condemnation to the Authority building. Forever. Like I mentioned, there have been bursts of brilliance, harkening back memories of near flawless seasons like 2 and 3. However, a pattern that began to emerge in season 3 (werewolves) continued in season 4 (witches, fairies) and was headed in a direction GOK coming into this season may stain whatever is left. With so many characters involved in so many narratives, it appears as if this was better served when we were dealing with vampires, and them alone. The introduction of other supernatural creatures like clockwork and an attempt to integrate it all seamlessly is grinding the gears to a point that may have even the actors thinking, “what the hell is going on here?”
With all of that being said, perhaps the final 3 episodes will impact me so much I will rescind any bad thing I ever said about the show. And to be honest, the capacity for that actually exists. Furthermore, when I said my interest may be slowly slipping away for good, I did mean slowly. My obsession may never return to its peak but I will continue to watch even as my interest declines. I hope the next three weeks are telling in the best way possible.
Some other lowlights that I wanted to mention:
Christopher Meloni’s part – underwhelming; more the writing (he tried REALLY hard) than anything else. I WANT MORE LAFAYETTE. The relapse of Jason into utter stupidity; he’s funny that way, but he showed last season he can be funny and evolving at the same time. The absence of a naked Jessica. WAY too political; perhaps it’s Alan Ball’s drop the mic moment as fades into the sunset. Bill’s transformation; believed Eric’s last season, having a hard time with Bill now. Eric calling Nora his sister; just because vampire babies are made different doesn’t change what they did as incest. Having a child vampire as the bad guy – no fun for anybody. Weird fairy parties.
There have also certainly been some highlights:
Lafayette’s mom and her one, glorious scene. (She deserves to be isolated)
Alcide just being a total badass and sensitive at the same time. Eric; he grows on me every season, a nod to Skarsgard and his versatility. Andy’s one liners. The return of Bud Dearborne, if only too brief. When Russell finally came back and actually contributed to the plot; be careful with him writers of True Blood! The dynamic between Pam and Tara as maker and progeny; I actually care about Tara’s story now! Don Bartolo – I just love that name.
Concerning all of the lowlights, the highlights, the good and the bad, the weird and the nauseating, I’ll be doing a more in depth season review after the last episode.
If you’ve seen most of the season do you agree? Disagree? Don’t care anymore and just want to see more blood and sex? Me too.
The Dark Knight Rises
After taking some personal time (to digest the tragedy and see the movie again), I have decided it appropriate to muse on The Dark Knight Rises and its artistic merit. I’ve already touched on the horrific events surrounding the premiere, so this is just to talk about the movie itself.
This has truly been an epic trilogy. In many ways it has redefined the way the general public has perceived what a superhero movie should actually look like. After the laughingstock that was the last two Batman films in the 1990’s, DC and Warner Bros. rightfully looked at themselves in the mirror and realized that the Bruce Wayne saga needed some fresh voices. They took a chance on a relatively unknown director back in 2003, and nine years later here we are. While there was The Prestige and even the smash hit Inception sprinkled in between the three Batman movies, right now thinking about Christopher Nolan means thinking about Batman. It means thinking about intricate, and at times over-the-top and unnecessary, plot devices. It means thinking about the new gloom of Batman, and how despite those sometimes unnecessary plot strategies, these films work on so many levels.
For all intents and purposes The Dark Knight Rises was fighting the unwinnable battle. Driving up a steep hill that it could never summit as it tumbled back to the beginning. You see, because when you make something like The Dark Knight, how do you answer it? In that regard preemptively separating the two and not trying to link them in every possible manner is the way to go. Impossible, but the way to go. Would Bane be as good as The Joker? (No). Could we be as enthralled from beginning to end by this as we were by the $1 Billion predecessor? (No). But is this a great film? (Yes).
Taken in an overall scope, the plot of The Dark Knight Rises is more complicated than either Batman Begins or The Dark Knight. However, it seemed tighter (script-wise) than both, perhaps a sign of how much the Nolan brothers continue to perfect their craft when they work together. It’s not to say that there weren’t times we were all looking at the screen and thinking, what? Did Bane just imprison Bruce Wayne somewhere in Asia and get back to Gotham in time for dinner? Did that guy in said prison heal Wayne’s BROKEN back by simply guiding a stray vertebrae into place? In any superhero movie (especially one under the pretense that our superhero doesn’t have any superpowers) that lasts nearly three hours questions as such will arise. But as previously stated, tight, strong, and low on cheese.
However, speaking of cheese, what was with that scene where Marion Cotillard’s Talia al Ghul dies? This is an Oscar winning actress, and for most of the film she was brilliant as always. However, that scene took me back to the cartoonish nature of the last sad incarnation of Batman on screen before Nolan, Batman & Robin. Also, one more quick issue to raise before getting back to the good stuff. When we see that the last scene is Bruce and Selina in an Italian setting imagined by Alfred earlier, I felt really iffy about it. It was when Batman makes the ultimate sacrifice by flying the bomb out over the water and saving Gotham that had me smiling. Not because Batman was supposed to be dead. But, like many others also thought, the trajectory of Nolan’s arc pointed to Batman dying at some point in this movie; and the way it happened was valiant and appropriate. Now some have asked is the last scene reality (there are always questions with Nolan), but we have to assume based on the eye test that Batman used the auto pilot and survived.
In The Dark Knight everyone except for Maggie Gyllenhaal brings it hard. For whatever reason I never believed in her performance and actually thought Katie Holmes did a better Rachel Dawes in Batman Begins. In this movie the female lead, Anne Hathaway, kills it. I didn’t know going in how I would feel about her as Catwoman (which they never say by name), but her sinister and vulnerable sides both came through as sincere to me, and really elevated the movie overall. Christian Bale once again does Batman/Bruce Wayne a good service, especially as to not try and overplay and steal scenes when he could because there is not THAT much Batman here for a three hour long escapade about Batman. Fine performances by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and again from Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman have this final chapter right there with The Dark Knight.
Save for one thing: as gallantly as Tom Hardy plays a great villain in Bane, The Dark Knight Rises lacks Heath Ledger, The Joker, and the best performance I’ve ever seen on screen. Everything Bane does is convincing, as he seems to be as menacing as he is calculating. His overwhelming stature shines through and genuinely tells the audience how much of a physical test this is for Batman. I really liked this film, will watch it many times over, but even with a tighter script, fantastic directing as always, and great performances across the board, The Dark Knight will always stand above because of a talent that unfortunately left this world much too soon. Even in absence the legend of Heath Ledger’s turn as The Joker remains.
Let me begin by saying this, more than anything, may be necessary for ME. Even with some great friends around me, I still need some type of emotional catharsis. I need to put in words and flush out some of things I’m still feeling.
My state has been through it recently. With a devastating array of different wildfires wreaking havoc on homes and people’s lives, along with a mass shooting in a movie theater, this is a time for grieving in Colorado; a time to embrace the ones closest to us. Now, personally I’m about as low on the totem pole in terms of those “affected” as possible. My house, on the verge of being sold, is still standing. My family and friends are safe, and my excitement about seeing the newest Batman movie resulted in me viewing it, and I’m still here writing this today. But like many, I’m still very shaken. There are 12 people who were probably just as excited I was to see The Dark Knight Rises and based on their decision to see the first showing possible, they lost their lives. I have tried to imagine the situation, but like many others have said before me, I simply can’t. I wasn’t there so I can’t.
Neither can I imagine the motivation to go on a crazed rampage and destroy the lives of the innocent. The mental consequence reaches far beyond the 12 that were killed and the other nearly 60 that were injured. School shooters that are bullied mercilessly deserve better. But there are countless young people bullied everyday who make the smart decision to not turn their frustration into vengeance and kill people. Things like bullying need to be changed culturally, but what school shooters did and do is inexcusable and will never be right. Likewise, whatever comes out about the mental state, background, etc. about the theater shooter can in no way justify what he did. He is a monster, and a coward, and shouldn’t be remembered any different.
On Friday, being 8 hours ahead of Colorado time here in Spain, I woke up excited as ever, but slowly started to understand what was going on snippet by snippet. From that point on, I went through a range of emotions that I can only describe ending up as strange. But it was a strange that was so strange (and obviously shocked) I was at the point of being physically ill. I’m sure I wasn’t alone. I resolved to go and see a later showing of the movie with my roommate and her sister, and came home planning to somehow try and make Saturday different.
To cap off that strange and awful day of emotions, I was informed late on Friday after I had returned home, that earlier that day we had to put the world’s best dog, our golden retriever Davis, down at the local vet. I shed hard tears. Partly because I didn’t know what else my heart could deal with, but also partly because even as I was weeping tears of sadness, I felt his joy and the almost 14 and ½ years he gave us. We knew that he wasn’t going to live forever, but it hits you like a ton of bricks all the same. His sister and litter mate, Lucy, passed away about 5 years ago, and with his death I am left in a situation that I haven’t been in since I was 10 years old; I’m without both of my childhood animal companions that have left an indelible mark on my life. Davis was my future guardian angel. Now he is simply my guardian angel. All dogs truly do go to heaven.
Davis gave my family strength. To hear some of the tales of strength that came out of the shooting are genuinely amazing. I’d like to think that I would do the same. But I can’t say for sure because you never know in horrific moment like that. The eyewitness accounts verify that some of those present looked at another person in the theater and said, “Your life is more important than mine.” While I believe the Nolan trilogy to be more than generic superhero fodder, Batman is simply a representation on screen. In Aurora you had living, breathing superheroes knowingly sacrifice themselves so that others could live.
My own spiritual beliefs are something I keep very personal because I don’t think anyone else needs to be affected by them. I would like to think I respect everyone else’s beliefs enough to not encroach my own on theirs. In this case, I must express the overwhelming sensation I felt of God’s Grace in seeing these stories, because in this context, with it I saw the power of human strength and bravery. Now, that Grace won’t un-wound those still living, and it won’t give the lives of the deceased back to their families. But I saw it. I saw it in the aforementioned heroes in the theater; in the police on the scene in almost no time; in the hospital staff that gladly sacrificed any semblance of sleep to make sure no one else died on their watch; and in recognizable faces like members of the Broncos and Christian Bale who showed commendable humility in visiting those still in the hospital. All of these people demonstrated why we can still believe in each other. There are bastards out there. However, in my world travels I have realized how many sincerely great human beings we are fortunate to have around us. There are so many who have done much more than I could ever hope to.
At some point early in our childhood we come to realize that our time on earth is finite. We may envision terrors of a car or an airplane crash, an unforeseen illness, or even innocuous delusions of aliens in our closets or beasts underneath our bed. Never do we see ourselves becoming victims in a movie theater. That’s part of the horror of this act. That it shattered a piece of innocence we had all been familiar with. However, The Dark Knight Rises made over $160 million dollars domestically over the weekend. $30 million of that was made in pre-sold tickets, which means although there were people that chose not to go for clearly legitimate reasons, more than $130 million worth of Americans saw news of the shooting and said they still believed and trusted in our great country. I believe in America. I believe in Colorado. And I am proud to be from both.
Book Club: ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’
Some Plot Spoilers!!
For Whom the Bell Tolls is the result of Ernest Hemingway’s time spent in Spain during their civil war in the 1930’s. It is a brutal look at the physical and mental struggles that impact those involved in, and affected by, war. Although it isn’t my favorite Hemingway work, I just recently finished it for real (when it had been a required reading, I spark noted that shit), and wanted to pen some thoughts I had about it.
The novel’s pace initially had me lukewarm. A timespan covered in the first 50 pages of The Sun Also Rises (which is my favorite Hemingway book) eclipses the entire length of Bell. 4 days, 3 nights, 500 pages. While his customary terse prose is still in effect, it doesn’t seem to flow as well as I thought it would. Although, with the entire scope of the book itself, it wasn’t one of the things taken into account primarily.
By far, the most interesting aspect of how the book is written is its narrative structure and use of language. For the better part of the first half, it is almost all in third person. As it continues on however, it exchanges between third person and first person inner-dialogue, mainly that of the main character, Robert Jordan. It is a technique that emphasizes the escalating mental strain endured by the ensemble Hemingway familiarizes us with. Furthermore, the language – including literary keywords like syntax, and diction! – is something that can be frustrating, and also fascinating. Obviously, the novel is told in English, with the idea that it has already been translated from the Spanish the characters are speaking. This results in Hemingway using things like false friends (ex., “molestar” does not mean “molest” it means bother, as in “me molesta” = “it bothers me” where he uses “it molests me”), direct translations (“voy” means “I go” but in reality we would use it in the continuous form, “I’m going,” but again Hemingway keeps “I go”), and grammar techniques used many times in Spanish but almost never in English (“que me digas” is a common way to say “tell me” but would literally be said as “that you tell me” which Hemingway uses). This permeates the entire novel, in no small part influenced by his immersion in key Spanish cities reporting during the war.
One thing that left me in a bit of a conundrum about his use of language was that, as a Spanish speaker, I can understand what he is trying to say in all of the instances where it doesn’t seem like sound English. Also, he many times uses Spanish, which he sometimes translates immediately after, but sometimes doesn’t. Again, I can understand the Spanish, and in that sense it doesn’t affect me one way or another, but towards the end he also uses a little French, which I don’t speak, and I realized how vexing it could possibly be to attempt to translate key things that characters may be saying. Overall, the narrative structure and language hadn’t really enhanced the book in my eyes, because of the above mentioned.
Another thing I was a little on the fence about was the character of Maria. In a way her relationship with Robert seems rushed and disingenuous. However, the relationship itself helps explain the vulnerability of her character and the fragility of so many young people left without families as a result of the war. I believed in the history of Jake and Brett from The Sun Also Rises more; he was left impotent by a war injury, leaving Brett physically unsatisfied whenever she is with him, but emotionally still very in love with him. However, the deeper nature of Maria’s story exposed through her relationship with Robert is chilling, and in the end, necessary.
However, anything talked about involving this book is secondary to the analysis of Robert Jordan. Tasked by a Russian general to blow up a bridge between Madrid and Segovia with the help of a guerilla band fighting for the Republic, Robert ends up getting involved in guerilla politics within the guerilla warfare. At one point, in an incredibly tense scene, the entire band is eating dinner inside of the cave they have taken as shelter, and Robert, thinking to himself, wonders whether he should kill the band leader, and resident drunk, Pablo. The crazy part is that everyone is expecting him to do it, including Pablo, who seems to be resigned to the fact. Why? It all seems to come back to the principle thought of war. Normal conventions of interaction are suspended because there are no rules in war.
Towards the end of the novel, Robert beings to think more and more about death. Not that it hadn’t come up before, but in a way he becomes obsessed by it, as do all the characters we meet. And in this comes a startling revelation: even before the events of the book start, Robert knows that death is the only conclusion. The fact that it is because his horse gets shot after he blows up the bridge and it collapses, breaking his leg and leaving him immobile, is secondary. At times he tricks himself into believing that he’ll survive the ordeal (mostly with Maria), but it is clear that he’s always known. And his death will be worth something because he fought for it. He makes this clear distinction when he brings up his father’s suicide and how it makes him think his father was a coward. An extremely eerie premonition for Hemingway’s own life, especially considering he sees himself in many of his leading characters.
Like I said, it’s not my favorite Hemingway. What it is, is an expose on something he fixated on his entire life, war. His straightforward dialogue and descriptions pull no punches and paint a grim reality. It’s also painful to think that it’s written from the Republic point of view, knowing full well the Fascist side ends up winning the war and ushering in Franco for decades to come. It was also both creepy and rewarding to read it while living here in Spain. He vividly describes areas that are a 5 minute walk from my flat, implanting the idea of turmoil in a place I’ve always seen as inspiring. It was a months-long journey that I certainly do not regret, and solidified my respect for Hemingway for what he is: an ultimate badass.
The ‘Person of Interest’ Dilemma
A little while ago, I had somehow made my way out of my bat cave (inside jokes are the best!) because our internet had decided not to work for the better part of 48 hours. sidenote: the cable had been unplugged and we didn’t have internet because it was the last thing we checked. #firstworldproblems
During this time I was watching Spanish television for one of the seldom times I had all year long, and stumbled upon ANOTHER American procedural entitled Person of Interest. Before I go any further, and I warn you whether or not you should watch this show, remember this: the CBS drama stars Jesus. Food for thought.
The problem in today’s television world and procedurals is their number. Originally, CSI was a pioneer. It built off the success of a show like Law & Order and providing the viewer with a weekly show that, if chosen that way, could be consumed through that hour alone. Now, of course, there are overarching storylines that permeate each procedural, but nothing is required before any one episode like it would be essential in something like Lost. However, if you think about it, what show isn’t a procedural, especially on CBS? Their ratings are through the roof, but they have the CSI franchise, Criminal Minds, and Blue Bloods just to name a few. Oh, and Person of Interest. So where does this one land?
Well, it has a million things that relate to every other cop show that we’ve ever seen. Foremost, barring some multi-arc episode or season finale, the conflict presented at the start of the episode will be resolved by the end. There is a season long arc involving a crime boss, but it is very rarely played into a single-episode plot. And if it is, it isn’t essential except for once, which hardly qualifies as a prerequisite.
In essence none of the above mentioned present the dilemma I want to speak of. The dilemma first presents itself in my “do I actually like this show?…a lot?” Yes, and, no. I do like it. It was created by Jonathan Nolan, brother to the most gifted director in Hollywood. Speaking of those brothers, one speaks American and one speaks British…awkward. It, by necessity, follows every convention of previous procedurals. It has to because it’s a network and it needs ratings. But no, the dilemma here comes from the embracement of the main characters.
The show is based upon the idea that a genius invented a machine that can predict violent crime (see: previous-terrorism) but he is meek and needs a physical vigilante to carry out justice. This is where Jesus comes in. He plays a total badass, a la Jesus Cristo, and each time he comes up against a foe I’m waiting for the hammer. The show establishes early that this is a man, come upon hard times, with a special set of skills (…and then I’m going to kill you). So, unless he comes upon a CIA operative, he’s going to win. And I relish the moment where he pwns them. It’s great.
No, the dilemma here comes from Jesus acting like for some reason, in the world’s busiest city, he is constantly in a library. It seems like the producers said, ‘play this real serious.’ And then, when he played it as is, they said, ‘whoa! way too serious!’ Does he have a vocal chord issue? Did something happen to him where he needs to constantly whisper?
Whatever it is, it won’t stop me from watching the show. Now, does this say more about me as part of the mass viewers these days? Or that I notice refreshing writing when I see it? I’ll take the latter. On a parlay.
After some time of leaving his music to the burner, for the past few weeks I have been able to do nothing but listen to Drake’s Take Care. I could have been quoted at some point during this time as telling one of my roommates, “Drake got me through work today.” And I wasn’t even joking. Since my good man DJ Fergs (twitter: @DJFergieFerg) introduced me to the newest member of ‘Young Money’ back in the summer of ’09, I’ve been on that ‘Jimmy from Degrassi: The Next Generation’ bandwagon. Remember? He got shot and ended up in a wheelchair. Later on that summer “Best I Ever Had” blew up, leaving many to forget that track was actually off a mixtape. But don’t worry, Aubrey Graham made sure to remind us on “Forever.”
And that’s one thing that has translated throughout his short career, again on this album, that I really appreciate. He can be cocky, but he backs it up; and at the end of it, he gets introspective in a way that not so many MC’s can nowadays. What started on Thank Me Later Drake finishes here. You could tell after his debut that he had sold even himself a little bit short, that it may have been rushed after all the hype, and he was ready to put out a complete piece of art last November.
Much of the material on Take Care comes sourced from girls and women in place of bitches and hoes. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m down for my occasional bitches and hoes, but Drake really opens the window to some of his past relationships and the emotional damage they inflicted on him.
Additionally, we know now that if Drake is featured on a new track, he’ll probably slay it. (see: “Say Something”) However, murdering hooks and overshadowing others on their own tracks doesn’t always translate to a full length LP. Here, it does. Not only does he masterfully blend melodies and flow, but his lyrics are relevant. More so on a full album than I’ve heard anytime recently. I know I could never dream of having a flow like Drake, but wondering whether I might not be able to touch his chorus hooks is both a little depressing and wonderful as a fan.
My favorite song on the album is “Shot for Me.” It is what I would call ‘sensitively arrogant.’ He’s telling all the girls from his past that they made a big mistake – just look at how famous he is! – but later wrestling with the fact that he still does miss them, and he’s hurt by some of the rumors that went around when he was with them. And after all of it, he seems to sincerely wish them the best while realizing that they are most likely beat up inside as well. It has an understated beat/melody and works beautifully as a pseudo-start to the album. (As the 2nd track)
I also must say that I have been shamelessly using YOLO recently. Some of my friends and I have been abusing it, realizing that it’s a bit ridiculous while also not caring because most of my American friends have left me for good or at least for the summer. I’ll also always take solace in the fact that not only did Drake drop YOLO on us, but listening through Take Care for the umpteenth time on repeat last weekend, I felt as if Rick Ross was personally speaking to me with ‘You Only Live Once!’
J Will Out…
Tres Metros Sobre El Cielo or Three Meters Above Heaven is a Spanish film that came out late in 2010 based on an Italian novel of the same name. It follows the story of two young lovers from different worlds and the inherent problems that come from mixing divergent backgrounds. After seeing promos for it on TV and around the city of Madrid when it was first premiering, I was intrigued and had some ‘ganas’ to see it. The closest this had come to actually happening before last week was last fall when a family I tutored tried to give it to me through a pen drive. It didn’t take and I more or less forgot about it.
However, on the 4th last week, while doing my patriotic duty by drinking Budweiser and correcting some papers, it came on TV and I thought I’d start watching it just to see. It pretty much immediately grabbed my attention, so I left the papers to the side (luckily commercial breaks here last about 8 minutes so I did both) and become engrossed by what I saw.
It follows a storyline we’ve all seen before. Good girl, bad boy. Good girl falls for bad boy. Bad boy gets good girl in trouble. Good girl is torn emotionally. And to that effect, it could have been just another one of those stories. But for many reasons it wasn’t. Principally, with all the odds stacked against it, the film does its best to avoid cheesy. Not completely, but mostly, which is more than the majority of like films can claim. Also, the chemistry between the leads is paramount to oblige the audience into their own belief of the story. Individually, they both give their characters a necessary depth beyond just “I really like this person.” And it didn’t hurt (at least on my part) that the lead actress, Maria Valverde, had me in love with her (like all other Spanish women I ever see) from the first interview I saw her do for promotion a year and a half ago.
The dialogue is crisp and relevant, the directing is solid, and the overall story is emotionally strong. While watching, you really feel for the characters and what is to become of them. A sequel just came out (based on the subsequent Italian novel) and I’m definitely in on that. If you ever get the chance to watch what some in the Spanish media have dubbed as ‘Romeo and Juliet 2.0’ I suggest you take that chance. It really is one of my favorite foreign films I’ve seen in a while.
It’s been over for about a week now, and even before it was all through it seemed to leave us just as quickly as it came into our lives. Euro 2012 was a three and half week whirlwind that gave us some unbelievable displays of the beautiful game. Disregarding an odd choice of venue in Poland and the Ukraine (of course two soccer POWERHOUSES), it was a visceral experience that in no small way is mired by the realization that major soccer tournaments like this only happen once every two years. And although my single greatest moment as a soccer fan (and one of my favorite USA! USA! moments) came in a cramped living room at 7:00 in the morning in San Diego, CA after Landon Donovan scored in stoppage time to send the yanks through past the group stage in the 2010 World Cup, this month of June – living in Madrid – trumps all other “goosebump” like experiences because of the atmosphere.
Sure, it doesn’t hurt that Spain has transformed itself into a soccer giant the past 4 years. And although there were other countries that came into the tournament with a legitimate shot at winning, it would have been foolish to think that Spain wasn’t the favorite. After securing a 1-0 victory in Euro 2008 and backing it up with its first World Cup in 2010, there was some type of aura surrounding this team. Add in the fact that the roster is made up largely of players from Real Madrid and Barcelona club teams (two of the most formidable clubs in recent memory), and the expectations materialized themselves without any outside pressure.
We watched Spain’s first game in an English bar in Mallorca while on vacation. The irony, however small it was, isn’t lost on me. Mired in a cloud of sunburns and beer, La Roja limped to a 1-1 draw in what most certainly would have been a loss if not for the brilliance of goalie Iker Casillas. As group stage games came every 4 days (4 groups, 1 day each per group), we didn’t have to wait long to see the next one. The last two group games were watched at Real Madrid’s stadium, equipped with large HD screens (sponsored by Hyundai obviously), and a local café. After Spain qualified unimpressively for the knockout stage, we checked out a different café for the quarterfinal against France and ended up watching the semifinal against Portugal at home. However, during the final against Italy, a group of friends and I went back to the stadium. Group stage game ≠ final game at stadium. Think, “this is fucking crazy” and you’re halfway there. The atmosphere was absolutely incredible, and being there during the insanity with Spaniards is something I’ll never forget.
One of the consequences of the final, other than a third consecutive major tournament win for Spain, was the “there’s really no more soccer” moment. We got spoiled. And it’s over. Especially for an American like me, Euro 2012 was a welcome addition to the early dog days of summer, when most of my days are spent pining for the return of American football (even if it’s only training camp). I’ve become a bigger soccer fan for each of the last 3 tournaments and it has corresponded with a dominance by my adopted team rarely seen in the world of international soccer. I can’t wait for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
But everything about Euro 2012 comes back to the fact that I was in the middle of lunacy from beginning to end. I was able to ride the metro after a game hearing unified chants of joy from people who had never met each other. I was able to make even more excuses to go out than I had before. I was able to attend the victory parade this Monday, putting the players no more than 30 feet away from us. In some ways, it made me yearn for a time when I can talk about things like this with the US team. No sport unifies people on a national stage more than soccer. We will be proud when our basketball team wins gold at the Olympics this year, but to a man everyone on that team would trade a gold medal for an NBA title. Not in soccer. The World or Euro Cup is the ultimate prize, and maybe one day we can revel in the triumph of the Red, White, and Blue. For now, Spain proves once again it has no equals on the biggest of stages.