Monday, July 25, 2011

Everton in DC

As I said for the US/Jamaica game, there are some perks due to living in DC. Ok, this perk -Everton vs. DC United - might not be too big of a perk for some people, but it does the job for me. I was pretty psyched when I found Everton was coming to my city. Here is a quick little review of their time here.

Practice - Everton had an open practice Friday morning, and of course, I went. It was 100 degrees and sunny, a bit different than Liverpool. There were only about 100 fans and it was kinda weird. Probably the weather, but most people were pretty subdued. I give a nice "Alright Timmy" as Tim Cahill came out and he sent over a brief salute, maybe more of a wave, or at least some sort of acknowledgment.
The practice was nothing too crazy. Warm-ups, one offense drill with a couple variations and a small sided game. Beckford was probably most impressive, but a small sided scrimmage is where he would thrive. Distin and a few others had trouble with the heat. Props go to Leighton Baines. If you didn't know any better you'd think he was a young kid trying to make an impression on the coaches. He went through every drill at full speed while a lot of the more veteran players took water and stretch breaks and did other stuff. He did not slow down despite the heat.
Oh, and Arteta came out in a walking boot and crutches, not looking good.
The best part about the practice was that all the players and Moyes came over to the fans and signed autographs and took pictures. It was definitely a great way to show thanks for all fans that braved the heat. I know the last thing you want to do after a hot practice is go talk to people you don't know. Much appreciated. Now I'm too mature for that fanboy autograph shit, but I did get some nice pictures. Check them out below with a few player observations.

Game - The game was fun. The upper bowl at RFK was not open. I'd say about 12,000 fans, but that might be generous. Both teams mixed their squads with reserves and starters. Everton scoring twice in the first 15 minutes really made things easy for Everton, but also lacking drama. Everton weren't great, but totally moved the ball better than DC. They had a lot of chances, but DC had some good outside shots too, but it's really hard to glean the big picture from this game. Instead, let's look at a few individual players performances.

Ross Barkley - I didn't know who this guy was at the practice. He is big, like Rodwell, not as strong yet, but tall, more like a defender than midfielder. He got the start on Saturday and looked good - not great, but good. Like most young guys, he worked hard and was trying to do all he could. Best part, only 17 years old. We got to keep this young Liverpool born talent.

Apostolos Vellios - This 19 year old Greek striker might be my new favorite player, mostly because the great picture above, but also due to his strong potential. He was the first player I got a picture with and seemed a nice humble guy, happy to be there. He too got the start Saturday and looked good. He seems to be the strong target man the Everton are lacking. He showed for the ball a lot, showed good control and touches and game IQ. I'd love to see him up top with Saha or Beckford. But will Moyes do that?

Victor Anichebe - Man, this guy is a BEAST in person. Ridiculously strong, maybe too strong for soccer. He scored a nice goal, but still has a few injuries. Pre-season will be big for him. Oh, and he much better at looking at the camera than me.

Conor McAleny - This was another guy I did not know before the weekend. He was probably the most eye-catching at the practice. He worked his ass off and was very crisp. Some are comparing him to Michael Owen. We'll see. Again, though very young and full of promise.

Tim Cahill - Timmy likes the heat. Oh yeah, Timmy's ready! Timmy's got some new moves. He's an Aussie. Tim played much deeper than he usually does, but he said the summer is all about fitness.

Magaye Gueye - Magaye was my new favorite player coming into the weekend, but that spot might be usurped by Vellios due to the pic. Magaye will soon be a stud, though. He has pace and skill. He can play as a second striker, on the left wing or the right wing, all spots we will need people this year. The heat looked a bit much for him, but he did get his 3rd goal in 3 games this summer, which is a huge positive. On the goal in the game, what was most impressive was his great pass to set up Beckford. Excited for more!

Sylvain Distin - A mountain of a man. He was not a fan of the heat, but a beast on the field against DC. Distin!

Jermaine Beckford - Strong in practice, but only got about 20 minutes in the game. I am not sold on this guy. At least twice he took a shot from outside the box when he had open players on his flanks. A nice setup for Magaye, though He is going to have to show better decision making if he is going to become a starter under Moyes.

There you go, just the mostly meaningless preseason, I hope Everton had as good a time in DC as I did. Let's hope it actually contributes to a strong start this season! C'mon you Boys!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Favorite Literary Characters

A post about my favorite literary characters? Why not? A bit pretentious perhaps, but I'm by no means saying I'm a literature expert. I have though gotten myself through a good number of books.

A few notes:
- I have not included comic book characters, though I do consider comic books literature. They would dominate the list. Look for a favorite comic book character list in the upcoming weeks. Epic.
- Obviously, characters are only from books I read. I will try not to be influenced by movie versions of books, but sometimes it is hard to separate the two.
- This a truly a list of my favorites, not necessary the "best" literature characters. You will see that I tend to move away from the lead protagonist and move more toward upper supporting characters.
- There will be a large honorable mention. I don't think it is a good idea to have too many favorites of anything.

Honorable Mention:
Dr. Larch - The Cider House Rules - Hard to put an abortionist on the list, but he is a quality character, a quality contrast of character, Very close to making the real list.
Germanicus - I, Claudius
Adah - The Poisonwood Bible - By far the best narrator of the bunch
Nick Carraway - The Great Gatsby - I kind of feel like this everyman quality draws in the reader. You could see yourself as him being introduced to this opulent culture and wanting to be part of it.
D-503 - We - The first dystopian novel. Check it out.
Grand Admiral Thrawn - Star Wars Novels (Thrawn Trilogy) - makes you almost root for the Empire. Super dorky to read, but super enjoyable.
Talon Karrade - Star Wars Novels (Thrawn Trilogy) - another Star Wars character created by Timothy Zahn. Complex character.
Sam Spade - The Maltese Falcon
Jack Burden - All the King's Men - similar to Nick Carraway
Chief - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Randle Patrick McMurphy - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Very Close to making the real list.
Luna Lovegood - Harry Potter


Regulus Black -Harry Potter Books- Ok, so I won't be ranking this list, but it is a top 5, and RAB is 5th, and could easily drop down into honorable mention if someone better catches my fancy. The other 4 will always be on my list, no doubt.
That being said, awesome character. Super unique in depiction. He never appeared in the entire Harry Potter series, not even in flashbacks. He was only talked about my other characters. It is wild how intriguing this made him, how this made you focus on all the small mentions of him. This is a great story too, a story of redemption, a story of realizing you are on the wrong side and trying to change that. Nicely done RAB and JKR.

Atticus Finch - To Kill a Mockingbird

You can already see my two favorite character types by these picks. The first, RAB and even moreso the third person on the list, is about the journey - a change in outlook, person, relationships, and well, character. The second seen by Atticus Finch is the person who does not change, the person who sticks to their beliefs, their morals, their core no matter what. In fact they stay true even when it would be easier and sometimes beneficial to change or bend or falter a little. But these men will not break, will not back down, will not change for anybody. Their core is true and unchanging.
Atticus Finch is a perfect example of this, pretty much everything that is good about America, humanity, and literature. I do not hesitate to use the picture of of Gregory Peck as Atticus. Gregory Peck is Atticus Finch. Perfect casting, perfect depiction.

Larry Underwood - The Stand -
Yes, the perfect example of the inward journey. King matches it for Underwood with a real physical trek as well, with bridges and tunnels and wrong turns and roadblocks, but in the end, the destination is reached.
I love every step of Larry's journey - from California to the time with his mother to Central Park to the Lincoln Tunnel to his time with Nadine to his time in Boulder to Vegas leading the way. He just seems so real even in the face of the incredible crisis. He reacts like a human. The circumstances change him. He sometimes fights those changes. He sometimes thinks those changes are fictional. He questions his growth, his choices, his place in this whole, epic mess.
In the end, I'm glad to have shared the journey with Larry.

Major Scobie - The Heart of the MatterThis is the same cover to the book that I read, except mine didn't have that stupid quote.
Scobie is somewhere in-between the character types that I mentioned. He is definitely true to his ways, no matter how wrong they might be. There is definitely a journey, an inward journey.
Scobie is the best example I can think of of the flesh vs spirit conflict. That is in a sense the same battle that Larry and Regulus faced, but it is oh so exemplified here. Which one wins? Both? Neither? Selfless to a fault, but still everyone loses. Interesting.

Fingolfin - The Silmarillion

If I ever get a pet it will undoubtedly be named Fingolfin.
Honor. Valor. Bravery. Courage. These words and their ilk perfectly describe Fingolfin, the only Tolkein character on the list surprisingly. The Silmarillion is much different than LOTR. I like it better in fact. You get a lot of characters, a lot of history, and a lot of mythology. The story is complex, but to summarize, Fingolfin stands by his brother after he does something pretty, pretty horrible. His brother then turns his back on Fingolfin, leaves him for dead, but Fingolfin leads his people through some super harsh Middle Earth conditions. Things continue to be pretty shitty for them because of Morgoth, who is like Sauron times 10. Morgoth = Batman. Sauron = Robin. There are attempted battles, but nothing good happens. Fingolfin finally has enough and goes to take on Morgoth single handedly! It's David and Goliath, but Fingolfin is no David. The is one of the most powerful Elves ever. He was so angry and ferocious, onlookers thought him a god. Epic battle ensues. Epic. In the end, Fingolfin falls valiantly. Middle Earth goes to shit for some time, but eventually the valor of Fingolfin was remember and Morgoth was defeated.
Worthy of my pet's name? Yes.

There you go. Awesome literary characters. Complex, transforming, true, a pleasure to read over and over again.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Tantalizing Frustration of the Summer Football Season

As a football (soccer) fan, the summer always holds a certain level of promise, but usually provides a much higher level of frustration. The European football off season is a unique experience. It is fueled by rumors and gossip pages and the board media. At times, it is almost as exciting as the real sport. In today's day and age, with blogs and twitter and a desire for instant information, it is probably too much. Pretty much every player out there is linked with someone else at some point in the summer. Lots of times the endless rumors of players and clubs are referred to as "transfer sagas". That is pretty apt as these things sometimes go on for months and months with endless speculation and nothing really happening.
Things are even worse being an Everton fan. You hear these rumors of players you know you are not going to get. You hear rumors linking your team to players you don't want. You most often hear rumors of your players leaving for bigger clubs. Yet you still check everyday to see who you are linked with. It's addicting. So far this summer Everton have sold 2 average players and bought no one. That is pretty normal actually.

Let's take a look at Everton's 2011 summer transfer rumors:
Mirislav Klose: The most unrealistic of the bunch, but fun to pretend
Demba Ba: Strong striker, also free - went with the higher wages offered by Newcastle
Sergio Canales (loan): Would've been interesting, but never realistic
As you can see by the three above, Everton have no money. All these players were free and we still cannot afford them. We must sell to buy, but can what we buy from our sales be better than what we have? Always the question of transfers I guess.

Jay Bothroyd: I'm not interested in him. He's not interested in us
Charles N'Zogbia: This would be a great signing, but I don't see us getting him for less than 8 million pounds
Shane Long: The Ginger has never impressed me. I don't think he's Premiership quality. No way I would pay more than 4 for him
Shaun Wright-Philips: This would be nice and make sense for player and club, but I see his wages being too high
Craig Bellamy: A quality striker, but I don't see him as an Everton man.
Nedam Onuoha: Of this list, Onuoha is the one I would most want - young, athletic, powerful, room to grow under Moyes.
Wes Brown - No thanks. We already got Phil Neville. Going to Sunderland now, though.
Danny Welbeck: I'd take him on loan or sale.

Yeah, nothing too exciting. We just don't have the money.
Out rumors:
I've heard rumors for most of our big guns - Baines, Rodwell, Fellaini, Jagielka. I would sell Rodwell and Fellaini. They just don't add anything that exceptional to the team. I would also love to see Bilyletdinov go. He just does not fit into the Everton system.

No money, our best players leaving, but don't fret Everton fans. Moyes actually does his best work with the mid-level transfers. That is what our team is based on pretty much.
Tim Cahill: £1.5 million
Mikel Arteta: £2 million
Tim Howard: £3 million
Phil Jagielka: £4m
Leighton Baines: £6 million
Jolean Lescott: £4m
Sylvain Distin: £5 million

From the data, we have to trust in Moyes' mid-level buys. He'll find a way to do something.
Unfortunately, every summer is the same. We say we will get players early, but wait until the last days of August. This contributes to our continual poor starts each season. Man.

Either way, I will continue to check the rumor mill each day. It is summer football season after all.