Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Soccer + History

Being at the intersection of soccer and history, I'm really liking this video from Duke University professor Laurent Dubois. He discusses the role of soccer in colonization and how quickly Algerians and Egyptians appropriated the sport into their own cultures. Though I'm pulling for the US to get out of Group C, what a match it would be if France and Algeria squared off in the knock-out stage.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Best of Luck, etc.

Sorry for all the short/video posts of late. It has been a busy few weeks with classes winding down and my all too brief jaunt back to DC for Thanksgiving. But today is an exciting day -- the World Cup 2010 draw! I'll be back here later letting my thoughts be known on the groups, but for about the draw here and listen to a little holiday cheer from Tom Waits because he seems to always know best.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Farewell #14

You will be missed!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Good Weekend

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Good Reads

Hello world. A soggy morning in Medford. Reminds me a bit of being out near Seward, Alaska where the air stuck heavy with fog. Here are a few articles to get your day started.

>>A Death in Texas. Tom Barry gives a compelling portrait of America's immigration policies focusing on the detention of illegals, privately run prisons, and the declining towns of West Texas.

>>The Loin in Winter. I'd never really considered Hugh Hefner's contributions to American culture, but, in his twilight years, he seems to be giving his legacy some consideration. Can't blame the man for wanting to be known for something more than bunny ears.

>>United Needs a Win. DC United's fighting for their playoff lives tonight. I can't watch the game, but send happy thoughts their way. And curses to Toronto, New England, and Dallas. Also, everyone's favorite soccer writer Steve Goff is off this weekend attending his son's Bar Mitzvah. Mazel Tov!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

How Terrible Love Can Be

It didn’t make much sense to me then, what Gnut was going through, but after Pila and me had our little twins, and we put a family together, I got an understanding of how terrible love can be. You wish you hated those people, your wife and children, because you know the things the world will do to them, because you have done some of those things yourself. It’s crazy-making, yet you cling to them with everything and close your eyes against the rest of it. But still you wake up late at night and lie there listening for the creak and splash of oars, the clank of steel, the sounds of men rowing toward your home.

I saw Where The Wild Things Are last night. It's not that the movie disappointed me in any way; I enjoyed it. But I'm didn't leave me with the optimistic feeling I'd expected it would. Being a kids' movie, I thought it would be tempered with melancholy, but, ultimately, one of those renew your faith in humanity kind of flicks.

And this is not to say that the ending isn't positive. We should feel hopeful seeing Max return home to his mother, supper on the table, his last tantrum forgiven. But I couldn't shake the Wild Things themselves from my head. In the film, the Wild Things function as your standard dysfunctional family. They have good times and bad. They love each other, they fight each other, and, occasionally, they do things so horrifying we wonder why people cause so much pain for the people they love.

The whole film reminded me of Wells Tower's fantastic short story, "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned," quoted above. It got me thinking about how we can do such terrible things to people we love. To our friends, to our families, and, even, to people we don't know.

In the story, Harald, the narrator, is right. It is crazy-making, trying to be good in a world where so many things go bad. A world where we do the worst things of all to the people we love the best. And like him, I didn't sleep well last night. The scariest thing about it is that I don't have to fear hordes of marauding vikings or clawed Wild Things.

(image via

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

DC: The New Paris?

I took this photo on a gorgeous, early April day in Paris last spring. In it, you see the Seine straddling Ile de la Cité and Notre Dame Cathedral, some trees just beginning to show their colors, others still barren after a cold winter.

Now, take a look at these proposed plans to remake Washington, D.C. with Paris and the Seine as a model. What a brilliant idea! Most of Washington is concentrated on the north bank of the Anacostia. Poplar Point, that undeveloped patch of grassland on the south bank, remains ripe for development and what better way to bridge the two sides of the city than by narrowing the river itself and constructing numerous bridges across (and maybe a DC United stadium to boot).

For my money, there's no better way to link the two sides of the Anacostia so often divided by race, class, and income than by shifting the focal point of the city south towards the river.

(design plans via Greater Greater Washington)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Welcome to Tufts, Michelle

An open letter to Tufts University's most renowned graduate student, Michelle Kwan.

Welcome to Tufts, Michelle! We are so happy to have you on campus. When I first heard that you would be skating circles up and down Packard Avenue at our very own Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy this semester, I thought: a) you are way cooler than Emma Watson, and b) you have totally raised Fletcher’s already high admissions standards to ludicrous heights with those two Olympic medals dangling from your neck. All those Peace Corps kids don’t stand a chance anymore.

Just a friendly joke there (and no disrespect to any involved in the Peace Corps), but this being a slightly serious column, I thought it might be nice to give our newfound friend Ms. Kwan an abbreviated history of select public figures who have enrolled at Tufts over the years. Think of this column like Aesop’s Fables for minor celebrities in Medford, but we will throw out the tortoise and the hare and go with Jessica Biel and the dude who wears the big glasses from The Office.

So, without further preface, we start with Ms. Biel herself. We all remember her as the young Mary Camden from our favorite family friendly teen drama 7th Heaven, but after appearing in a racy photo shoot and having her role on the show reduced, Biel decided to take a few years out of the spotlight and come to our quiet corner of suburban Boston. And what a great idea it was. After honing her craft in the Drama Department for several semesters, movie offers started piling and Biel went back to Hollywood and, well, turned into a huge movie star and is now dating Justin Timberlake. Not too shabby. She should thank us more. Maybe a contribution to the Beyond Boundaries Campaign, Jess? Show the History Department a little love for me.

Our next story follows Rainn Wilson, another Tufts drop out who has now made a name for himself in show business. After dropping out of Tufts and struggling for years in the New York acting scene, Wilson’s stock skyrocketed when he landed the role of Dwight K. Schrute, a beet farming paper salesman on NBC’s The Office. He was just in a movie about musician that I didn’t see, but, hey, it’s still a movie.

So…if these stories provide any didactic wisdom it would be to dropout after a couple of semesters. Seriously. The dude who founded American Apparel dropped out of Tufts, too. Now he supplies the hipsters of the world with gold lamé leotards, uber-tight T-shirts, and ironically large sunglasses. Well done.

But if you are looking for a less notorious role model, maybe check out Pierre Omidyar. After graduating with a degree in computer science, Omidyar founded eBay at 24 and got super rich letting people sell their old stuff to other people they don’t know on the Internet. Quite an accomplishment, but like any true active citizen he didn’t stop there. After selling the company for buckets of cash, Omidyar founded the Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment organization dedicated to social change. Bravo!

And I shouldn’t discount the countless Tufts and Fletcher grads that are involved in public service, business, and academia around the world.

So Michelle, I hope this little lesson has been informative. Though I’m sure the really cool looking room in Ginn Library will be extra crowded this year with folks trying to see you, we are all super excited that you are here and want our home to be your home for the next two years! Good luck to you and we all hope to see you around campus, especially if they put out that little faux ice skating rink on Fletcher Field at Winter Carnival. I want to see a triple axel.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Oh Say Can You See

Tomorrow night, the U.S Men's National Team can qualify for the 2010 World Cup with a win against Honduras in San Pedro Sula. With so much political turmoil boiling in the Honduran capital, the tension surrounding the already important match has reached a fever pitch.

Check out this video and watch all the security and media following the Yanks around the city. It'll be a difficult match for so many reasons and I hope you all can check it out. As Shawn Francis wrote on The Offside Rules: "Judging by the amount of guns and journalists around it's not another country, it's another world; no matter how much you follow the American game, sometimes you forget what the game is like in the rest of the world."

Unfortunately, a Central American company bought the US television rights and will only be showing it at certain bars on a closed-circuit...but I'm sure pirated streams will be available online.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Restoration

So I took it upon myself to reread some of my older blog posts this afternoon. The whole endeavor made me Paris nostalgic, longing for those days when I could walk down the streets anonymously and I could pretend that I wouldn't be graduating in a year. Paris proved useful at avoiding all anxieties vis-à-vis the future. That may be one reason it is so popular. It's a place where you can lose sight of a lot of things that you once though important. And that's neither good nor bad. That is Paris.

Either way, I can't really avoid the future any longer since it will soon be smacking in the face. College -- that wonderful four year blip -- has more or less come and gone. And so, I went to the Career Fair today, looking for a career. I didn't find one.

But after the Fair, after handing out resumes and shaking hands and having an embarassing coughing fit in front of the lady from the Peace Corps, I read an old Washington Post magazine article, "The Restoration," by Wells Tower (I wrote about him in March) from 2005. If you've read his debut book of short stories, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, you can find some links between his fiction and this essay about his father's decaying house in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (the essay is really quite good and if you want to read it and don't have access to it via LexisNexis I can email it to you).

Well, in this article, Tower, as an adult, returns home to rebuild and restore this house his father has let decay beyond imagination. And I'm not quite sure what to make of it. For Tower, this was what he had to do. To not follow the general post-grad path. He just went home and decided it was time to hack away at the wisteria and kudzu that had overrun the yard. He cleaned out the garage full of copperheads and ants and rusted firearms and grills. He used his brother's carriage-welded class-four trailer hitch (the same hitch used in the story "Retreat" for those paying close attention) to haul down a stubborn cherry tree.

And now, in a place where I'm sure Tower was several years ago, I feel a lot of pressure to make the right decision. To find the right job. But this guy didn't need a career fair. Or a resume critique week. Or round robin networking. He attacked stubborn roots with a lawn mower until vines tangled around the steel blade and the motor seized.

I'm not sure if I have a point to make here. In my search for answers, I keep coming up with more questions.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Forgive Them, For They Know not What They Do.

As a student of the American Revolution, I must always remind myself that, during the Stamp Act riots of 1765, the Tea Party of 1773, and even on the eve of Lexington and Concord in 1775, the Revolution itself was not a foregone conclusion. No one knew how the British would react to further attempts at rebellion. No one knew if New Yorkers and Virginians could unite behind the common cause of freedom from Parliament. These patriots were lawbreakers and their riotous actions led them onto uncertain legal and ethical grounds. If they failed, they most certainly would have been hanged for treason.

Looking back today, it is almost impossible to remove that foregone conclusion -- that the United States of America came into existence in 1776 -- from our analysis of the events that preceded it. Infinite economic, political, and ideological factors moved in wheels entangling and interlocking, causing many fractured and regional movements to ultimately coalesce into a Continental Army and Congress and, in 1789, a constitution that set forth for posterity a system of government conceived in liberty and equality, but ultimately unfinished. While the Revolution brought together unlikely coalitions -- laborers and merchants, Virginian planters and Bostonian distellers -- that agreed on the concept of home rule, many of the Revolutionaries disagreed on the idea of exactly who would rule at home if they succeeded.

We tend to ignore all the idiosyncrasies and hypocrisies of the Revolution in favor of a glowing portrait of our Founding Fathers and a distorted image of their rebellious antecedents. Few remember the Loyal Nine of Boston, the precursors to the Sons of Liberty, leading the poorest segments of the population on riotous marches against Boston's wealthiest Tories and government officials, burning and sacking and drinking from the South End to the North. These riots were not always coordinated efforts to bring the crown to heel, but uncontrolled crowd action that would not ever be tolerated in the United States today. We would call in the National Guard in a heartbeat if we saw today in Boston what happened in Boston in 1765.

And all of this makes me wonder how any can invoke the Tea Party or the American Revolution today in service of a political ideology. We are a nation so removed from the context of the 18th century with established principles of self-government and responsive political institutions that would make many patriots blush. We have expanded the rights guaranteed under the Constitution of 1789 to all Americans, black or white, male or female, and we continue to strive toward furthering equality under the law in this country as we tackle the troubling issues of socio-economic inequality and unjust laws laws like Don't Ask, Don't Tell. We do not live an ocean away from our lawmakers nor do they ignore our pleas and petitions for redress.

Those who invoke the Tea Party and the Revolution today should be ashamed. Not because they are ignorant (I can accept that), but because they distort our perception of the creation of the United States. As Timothy Egan wrote in The New York Times today:

Where was the Tea Party movement when the tax burden was shifted from the high end to the middle? Where were the patriots when Wall Street, backed in Congress by Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, rewrote securities laws so that the wonder boys of Lehman and A.I.G. could reduce home mortgages to poker chips at a trillion-dollar table?

Where were the angry “stiffs” when the banking industry rolled the last Congress — majority Democrat, by the way — into rewriting bankruptcy law, making it easier to keep people in permanent credit card hock?

Where were they when President Bush started the bailouts, with $700 billion that had to be paid on a few days’ notice — with no debate — to save global capitalism.

If it is time for another Revolution, it is not that time now because we wish to give health care coverage to the 48 million Americans who do not have it. If it is time for another Revolution, it is not that time now because we wish to simplify the student loan process for students seeking higher education in this country. And if it is time for Revolution, it is not that time now because we sit, poised on what appears to be a defining period in American history, where we must decide how to respond to crises, national and global, that force us to adapt to uncertain contexts we do not yet fully comprehend. Global credit and finance whirl overhead like dark storm clouds as domestic inequalities and foreign wars fracture our existing coalitions and political frameworks.

Like the Old Revolutionaries, we cannot look into the future with absolute clarity. But if we choose to respond to these crises with fear and not courage, with acceptance of mediocrity over the challenge of reform, we might as well give up the experiment of democracy today for we are not worthy of its mantle.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Smoke and Mirrors

If you know me, I’ve probably recommended you watch Mad Men at some point over the last year. The first two seasons floored me. My mouth would hang open during new episodes. Did Betty Draper, negligee pattering in light wind, cigarette dangling from crimson lips actually just start shooting a pump action rifle at her neighbor’s pigeons? (Yes, she did.) If you talked to me back then, I would have claimed that Mad Men was the best show on TV (except for maybe The Wire). Then we’d sit down to watch, cocktails in hand, eyes stuck on the set.

That was until Season Three debuted at the end of August. With dustless Emmys from Season Two sitting in AMC’s offices, the stakes were much higher as a wider audience began to catch onto the premiere hype. I was moved by several scenes, particularly Peggy Olsen singing ‘Bye, Bye Birdie’ to her mirror and Don Draper stroking the heavy, Spring-straight grass as his children paraded around a May Pole, but, by and large, the show felt sterile and slow.

While the first two seasons eschewed campy episode arcs, they did have obvious pacing and rhythm, melding Draper’s public and private lives until they blurred beyond recognition (to both the viewer and Draper himself). But now the scenes refuse to linger, cutting in and out of various plots fracturing continuity. I love all the conflicts as they pit characters of the post war elite against the rising counterculture, social issues boiling over the glassy sheen of posed perfection into the lives of the headstrong men of Sterling Cooper, but now it is just a muddled mess. The writers are avoiding sentimentality and the repetition – the usual killers of once good TV – but that doesn’t mean the show needs to excise all sentiment. Remember Don Draper’s heart wrenching pitch to Kodak in Season Two as his marriage collapsed into memory like the yellowing slide’s flashing across the screen. Elegiac, tragic, beautiful.

I used to sit soundless in front of the TV, but, now, I find the show boring; the characters manufactured and posed. In the show’s defense, it continues to nail the aesthetic of the United States of the 1960s. Matthew Weiner, the show’s creator, meticulously brought back to life an America of our not-so-distant past: the clothes, the drinking, and the cigarettes all hand-in-hand with status quo misogyny, homophobia, and chummy Old Boy politics as the ad men slurred through work days and gin-stained nights with wretched ease; wives betrayed and ads bought and sold at dizzying pace. We yearned to uncover the skeletons that piled to the top of Don Draper’s closet and wanted to see the real face of his wife, Betty, behind her Stepford smile.

But now it all feels forced, contrived. Some friends say I am passing judgment on the third season too soon. They tell me to give it time and let the plot lines unfurl and tangle together in typical Mad Men fashion. But now I wonder if we let the aesthetic of the show distort our senses. The short, painful scenes of the third season are so un-Mad Men. Gone are the long conversations and soliloquies that hovered alongside life’s worst moments, awkward and painful, but ultimately vivid and rewarding.

I still watch Mad Men, but it feels like a hollow suit, the kind so often attributed to those in gray flannel. Maybe it all was just smoke and mirrors after all.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Long Time No See

It has been quite awhile since I last posted and, as my senior year at Tufts looms large, I feel the need to get writing again. Where else can I rant about the decline of Mad Men and the pomo image crisis in Twilight?

But to get started I am going to forget about all that and write about soccer. I'm headed back to school this weekend and will miss DC United go for its 13th major title on September 2nd at RFK when they take on Seattle Sounders FC for the US Open Cup Title. The US Open Cup is the oldest major sports tournament in the United States (older than the World Series, the Super Bowl, etc.) Any team can enter from amateur clubs to professional clubs, providing lots of drama. Several amateur clubs knocked off MLS teams (fielding reserve squads) in the earlier stages of the tournament. For fans of English footy, it is the US equivalent to the FA Cup and, for soccer fans, it is a big deal.

If you are in town, go to the game! Tickets are cheap and beers are going for $2. Tailgate with the Barra and jump up and down ans sing until the stands shake and you sound like a hyena.

But, don't listen to me. Take it from Ryan Zimmerman.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

The United States of America versus Brazil
Final of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup
Johannesburg, South Africa
Sunday, June 28
2:30 PM EST

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Benedict Arnold. Meet Giuseppe Rossi.

This picture (via The Offside Rules) provides a pretty decent summary of my reaction to the U.S. national team's 3-1 loss to Italy today. The vicious traitor pictured above, the New Jersey born and raised striker Giuseppe Rossi, dropped two goals in the second half of the U.S-Italy match to bury his country of birth (Rossi spurned the U.S. team to play for Italy, his father's native country).

A bogus red card to Rico Clark in 1st half left the US with little chance of winning and despite scoring first thanks to a great effort by Jozy Altidore to draw a PK, Rossi managed one incredible shot, Daniele De Rossi (the same man who elbowed Brian McBride in the face in 2006) beat Tim Howard later in the half, and the villain of the night Rossi hit the jugular in stoppage time to send the azzurri to victory (and reignite my hatred of the Italian national team).

Before the match, I thought if Rossi scored against the U.S. he might not celebrate. Maybe a solitary fist pump, but out of deference for the country that raised him he'd jog back to the half way line and keep playing. This is not what happened. With arms raised Rossi slapped his country of birth across the face with an overzealous celebration and stomped on all the Americans who had defended him and pulled for him throughout his career. Sure anyone would be thrilled to score a goal in a major soccer tournament, but to draw blood and then twist the knife in the sides of U.S. soccer fans was cruel and I thought Rossi should have shown more respect to the country that accepted him and his family.

The match was a part of the Confederation's Cup being contested now in South Africa. A perfect tune-up to the 2010 World Cup, check out the US take on Kaka and Brazil on Thursday.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Real World

After 12 hours of flying, connections, and a very, very cold Serbian woman (long story that involved multiple sweaters, a neck pillow, and a mummified, blanketed sleeping position), I'm home.

Had Mexican food last night and went to bed at 9 pm. No grand cultural observations from this writer just yet. Trying not to extrapolate scenes from the Mexican restaurant and the airport into general platitudes about Americans being louder, fatter, and more obnoxious than I remembered. Trying not to do this is difficult.

In all honesty, it does feel odd to be home and I'm not quite sure how I feel about it yet. If only their was some form of cultural half-way house over the Atlantic where I could acclimate into an American again.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Moveable Feast, Part II

It only seems fitting that an updated version of A Moveable Feast has been published this Spring. The book that for so long colored and filled my perceptions of Paris with sepia toned photographs of 1920s nostalgia has been given a face lift: new stories and vignettes added to complete and to illuminate the often biased picture the original book gives of Paris, its literary community, and Hem's family themselves.

And why this all seems fitting -- as you know by now -- is that I have just completed my first stint in the same city that became Hemingway's adopted home and I have taken away my own stories and perceptions of a place so far gone from that literary ideal and still so alive in hundreds of other ways that I'd never seen or expected before as if some hazy introduction has been stitched together from nights and mornings and cafés and classrooms.

So at this time, I'd like to thank everyone who has read the blog and stayed in touch with me since January. As much as I've learned about Paris and its and corners and dives, I've learned about myself and what I want to do with the rest of my life and this blog and writing to all of you back home or wherever you may be has played a major role (if not the most important role) in this awareness. You are as much a part of this blog as I am and Paris as much a part of you as it is of me.

I'm sad to be leaving and it's a shame that now, when for the first time in several months I feel at ease here, my time is up. But as Hemingway said better than I ever will:

There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and your received return for whatever your brought to it. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.

So once again. Thank You.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wine Belly

I'm finally done with classes. This is very good news for the weather has turned gorgeous and I can spend every waking moment outside. Just spent the day picnicking in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. Built by Napoléon III in the 19th century, he designed the man-made park to replicate Hyde Park in London (where, in exile, he had spent his childhood).

Unlike the Luxembourg Gardens, you can sit anywhere you please in the thick and matted grass. Today's a national holiday in France so throngs of Parisians sat on blankets eating and drinking away from the tourists crowded down on Ile de la Cité.

Going to go for a run to work off my wine belly. Enjoy the photos from a few street fairs I've seen of late and have a good week.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ready. Abel.

One. exam. left. Slogging through the end of Impressionism and tomorrow at 12 noon I will be done, done, done (with classes). I've loved being in Paris, but I'm finished with taking classes in French so hallelujah, amen, and au revoir.

Then, I have one last sundrenched week to soak up all of this city before it is home for the summer. Don't have enough time now to write anything substantial, but I thought I'd post some pictures I've taken over the last few weeks. Included are photos from Giverny (Monet's house and gardens) and Roland Garros (site of the French Open).

Also, I intentionally misspelled the title of this post. The National are the only thing getting me through this final and I have the song "Abel" pounding to keep to me up and at 'em.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Quiet You

We've had more than our fair share of rain this past week and with the sun out and setting I sat down at a café this afternoon with book and coffee and what I thought would be quiet. I can always tune out the French being spoken around me into a hovering white noise, all coming in without conscious thought and going back out devoid of meaning. But an Englishman and an American, these two gossiping academics of the ancien regime couldn't keep their mouths shut about their lives or their colleagues and the burdens of teaching such ungrateful undergraduates. I wish them luck with the Versailles Conference approaching in July and, yes, Mr. American you truly are a first-class gentleman for not writing a scathing review of your colleague's new book (just as honorable to bash her behind her back, right?).

Actually I'm sure they are relatively nice people and I've made them into straw men for a reason. I've probably been just as loud at other cafés and have probably annoyed other quiet Americans who just want to sit over a café crème in peace. But now I'm afraid to go home where all around me there will be conversations that I will unconsciously comprehend. Drawn into lives and stories I don't want to hear.

That is over. Sorry for being all negative. I'm burnt out from working and really wanted to sit in that café and read The Beautiful and the Damned that my friend had just lent me. Otherwise, all is well. I wanted to draw your attention to a couple of things I've found online that are of funny/cool. Here they are:

>> I love the moxie of this associate at Quinn Emanuel. Way to take on the man. And he/she is right about a lot of stuff, though he/she probably chose the wrong venue to air said grievances. And at least use capitalization. Just because it's an email doesn't mean you need to throw grammar and structure out the door. But I do support him/her in his or her use of parentheses since footnotes can't be used in email. Get on it Gmail software people. Footnotes would get rid of all those pesky parentheses All of this could have been in a footnote at the end of this blog post. Imagine that.

>> The Chicago Tribune's soccer writer, Luis Arroyave is changing posts after 3 1/2 years covering the Fire. His goodbye blog post sums up the awesome online soccer community in the United States. For all the internets's flaws -- being so wide and so shallow -- in this case, it has brought a diverse and otherwise isolated set of people together, united by one common (but not mainstream) interest: soccer. If Steve Goff ever changes positions at the Washington Post, he'll receive a similar outcry of support from D.C. United fans.

>> Since we're talking about American soccer supporter culture, here's a really good piece comparing the MLS to a certain German soccer club known for its irreverence. It's the reason why DC United needs a stadium and needs that stadium to be in DC. Not MoCo, not Ashburn.

>> UPDATE: If you're in DC with nothing to do, head down to the Wreck on the Anacostia (RFK) to see DC United take on the New York Red Bulls in a play-in game for the U.S. Open Cup. The Open Cup is the oldest continually contested sports tournament in the United States (and that includes football and baseball). It'll be lots of fun.

Monday, May 18, 2009


I took this photo in Sarajevo and it has nothing to do with anything else in this post.

So I've been listening to the new Wilco album (check out the link to the right and give it a listen) and I can't say I've really been blown away. Sure it's well-recorded and the band's as tight as ever, but the new songs are, honestly, a bit dull. With the exception of 'Wilco (the song)' and 'You & I,' I haven't wanted to push replay like I always end up doing when I dust off Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or Summerteeth. Do I fault the band for growing up? Somewhat. Jeff Tweedy's got two kids (one of whom is an astoundingly good blogger/writer/human at age 13) and I guess writing lyrics like "I dreamed about killing you again last night and it felt alright to me" doesn't float when you're busing kids to and from Hebrew school and hosting Bar Mitzvah's in your spare time. Not very rock and roll.

It's a slow Monday and I needed a break from work so I've posted a playlist I made on Included is one of the aforementioned Wilco songs, 'You & I. It borders on being Grey's Anatomy Derek & Meredith elevator montage scene fodder, but is thankfully saved by guest vocals from Feist. She adds warmth and immediacy to what could otherwise be cliché, sappy, and, well, bad. I still love the band and I really do like this song so listen.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ghost Town

I missed the dernier metro last night. Running to change trains at Opéra, the 8 had pulled away a minute before I arrived at 2:15 AM out of breath and out of luck. While the Opéra Garnier's a gorgeous building by day, at night, all forms of life vanish and this one corner of Paris echoes the empty ghost town that many fear Paris is becoming. A living museum (or masueoleum for current Paris's vehement detractors) that when the tourists and Parisians leave for the day and go back to their homes and hotels and out to bars and cafés, the dead center of the city is deadly quiet.

So I walked down Boulevard de l'Opéra passing under the arches of the Palais Royal into its imposing (and enshadowed) courtyard, all pyramid lights off in the small numbered hours. There's a chilling quality to that part of the city at night that I hadn't felt before as I indignantly trudged across the Seine to my night bus stop. It was walking across the Seine that I realized how odd it was for me to be pissed off that I'd missed my train. Hundreds of thousands of people come to this city to see these very sights every year, to walk down Boulevard de l'Opéra, to see the Opera house framed along that Haussmannian axe and to then descend down through the pyramid into the Louvre and I, wanting my bed and toothbrush, had just marched for half an hour letting the city and one of her most beautiful and old districts slip past unnoticed.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

May Showers

Why is it raining?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Ruling Class

Hello World. I tried to write a post last night, but my scatterbrained self couldn't put fingers to keyboard. I apologize for not being a prolific blogger over the past few weeks, but it's been all coffee and rain and library and no fun. I've promised unwritten updates on the Balkans and have been a poor email correspondent, so, sorry. Replies are coming soon.

But not until this weekend as I've been busy churning out an 11 page paper on the Russo-Japanese War and now have to begin another 10-pager on the EU's role in Kosovo and another worthless paper for my French language class (on the history of Roland Garros) before I can begin studying for my exam hell week at the end of May. But I should not complain for these are temporal troubles and will be gone all too soon as my time here draws down to what will be the end of Paris.

A brief update and story: This past weekend, I went to Bourgogne (Burgundy). We stayed in Dijon and, yes, I bought a jar of mustard and ate and drank very well. The highlight of the trip was a visit to le château de Villemolin that has been within the family of the Marquis De Certaines for the past 500 years. The De Certaines are hosting a Tufts student this semester at their apartment in the seizième and had the whole group down to their immense château for a tour and hors d'œuvres. On the tour the Marquis traced their family's history, showed off a desk that had belonged to Napoléon himself, and, interestingly, told the story of how he is both a Son of the American Revolution and member of the Order of the Cincinatti, the pseudo-American aristocracy formed by leading American and French officers from the War of Indepedence. He's more of an American than I am.

Upon returning to Paris and informing my host family that I had been to another family's château, they got quite curious and, as it turns out, know the other family. In fact, the Comte De Pemille is a distant cousin to the Marquis De Certaines. Marie-Joelle pulled out a large register full of inbred aristocrats and traced the connection between the families and it was all so funny and passé that I felt woefully inadequate to not have a château to the Helms name nor a lineage of dukes or counts. In the register, each child is listed with his year of birth so the aristocrats can continue to not pollute their bloodlines with the 3rd Estate. I'm mostly kidding here, but it is quite interesting to see their history and tradition in action as they hold onto a culture that is dying away.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Support DC United

Happy Armistice Day! I have another post about the Balkans in the wings and will add photos and put that up tonight, but I just wanted to alert all those in DC/MD/VA that DC United needs yours help! Last month, I wrote a long piece on DC United's failed efforts to get a stadium built in both DC and Maryland as the decrepit RFK cannot support the team financially in the long-term. They are back to square one so lend your voice to the cause and then enjoy a MASSIVE tailgate sponsored by the Barra Brava and the Screaming Eagles and then check out first place DC United take on second place Toronto FC for the top of the table. Here's the march itinerary and plan so go, go, go. If one person attends the rally, tailgate, and match because I've written this blog post I will be thrilled and will forever love that person. I'd be there myself if, ya know, I wasn't here. Everyone have a good weekend as I'm off to Burgundy with Tufts tomorrow.

March Timeline
2:00 p.m. - RFK Stadium parking Lot 8 opens to the public
2:30-3:30 p.m. - shuttles from Lot 8 to Lincoln Park run
3:45 p.m. - initial demonstration at Lincoln Park begins
4:00 p.m. - fans march from Lincoln Park to RFK Stadium
4:45 p.m. - march participants arrive at La Barra Brava tailgate
5:00 p.m. - Kevin Payne addresses the crowd in Lot 8
7:30 p.m. - kick-off, D.C. United vs. Toronto FC

UPDATE: Here's a video from the march. Did anyone go?

Image from

Monday, May 4, 2009


So I've been meaning to finish writing about my trip to the Balkans (I've yet to write about Dubrovnik, Budva, Prishtina, Sarajevo, and Mostar), but they will have to wait since I just got back from Prague and rather than letting that city slip further down the back-burner I thought I'd knock it out right now in pictures and a few brief words.

May Day. I arrived on the First of May in Prague and the city's as gorgeous as I'd heard it would be. The Charles Bridge, the Castle, the Cathedrals, the (anticlimactic) clock. Beer is cheaper than water and the smell of sausage and fried cheese (as good as it sounds) hangs in the air from the street carts serving the hungry hearts of Prague. Many thanks to my friend Caitlin for taking me in for the weekend and showing me around!

Pictured above is the Lennon Wall named after John (Lennon) and, during Communist rule, this wall provided the only means of public expression in the city. Youth wrote lyrics to Beatles songs and continually frustrated authority figures who would paint over the graffiti only to find new messages written the next morning. People still write on it today.

At first I thought it was nice to have people signing their names to the wall, but that changed fast when I saw four girls (I'm going to assume they were from New Jersey based on accent and general surly demeanor) sign their names to the wall as they posed for a photo in identical black leggings. You know the girls I am talking about. If it had been colder I'm sure they all would have worn Ugg boots and no one who stuffs their feet into those horrendous sheep killers should be allowed to make any contribution to public discourse in my opinion.

They weren't contributing to the spirit of the walls earlier days, only detracting from its once forceful message of disobedience in the face of injustice. Today, speech is open in the city. The country's joined the European Union and within the year will start using the Euro. Moreover, twitter, blogs, and Facebook have made public expression (however minute and trivial that expression may be) available to the masses. Jersey girls -- stick to the Book. The only people I saw signing the Lennon Wall this weekend were not Czech and it struck me as just like a Che Guevara t-shirt that the wall had been sapped of all its initial power and force. What does it mean to sign your name to that wall? Is it to associate oneself with ideas of rebellion and counterculture and revolution that have been repackaged and bought and sold back to us (drawing on ideas from David Foster Wallace's brilliant essay, E Unibus Pluram)? Is the message diluted and, ultimately, gone? Or am I just over thinking all of this? Probably.

I'd just prefer to see the wall remain static and decaying, a historical (and crumbling) landmark to the horrors of the Communist period and the suppression of speech in Prague. Apologies for the digression but this post is called "Detours."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

There and Back Again, Part 1

When I got off the Metro at Felix Faure on Monday after 17 days in the Balkans, I first noticed the trees. They were green. Spring had crept up on Paris while I was gone and I was sad to have missed the flowering buds turn green in my favored Luxembourg Gardens. But oh my did I have a great time in Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Bosnia. I'll try and give a brief rundown of each city over the next few days.

Zagreb served as my entry and exit point to the region. In my first moments in the city, I noticed the wide spacing of the streets and the exaggerated distances between buildings; a place with space to spread out and grow unlike the often cramped and narrow quarters of Paris. We ate well and cheaply and drank beer from 2 liter bottles and almost saw a riot break out a soccer match. Having met an American, Korean, Frenchman, and Englishman all of whom worked for Adidas in Germany, we decided to check out the local side, Dinamo Zagreb, play a match at their home ground. Buying the cheapest tickets possible, we stood in line to be searched with all the other fans, but the crowd turned violent as the search process allowed only one person to enter at a time and, with the match set to begin, the most die-hard supporters began pushing and shoving, eventually overcoming the barricade and the riotgeared police who decided not to challenge the on-edge crowd. It was the only moment on the trip where I felt at all unsafe and decided not to take my camera out for the 5 or so tense minutes before the barricades finally fell so sorry that I don't have any photos of the event. Zagreb's a fun city and worth spending a night but doesn't hold a candle to the blunt charms of the Adriatic coastline.

Split. It's 5 AM Easter Sunday and I have just arrived into this sleeping port city, devoutly Catholic and still hanging in the morning fog. Unable to check into our hostel until at least 8, we sit along the waterfront, hungry and bleary eyed from a night bus from Zagreb and waiting and praying (it is Easter) for a bakery or anything to open up. By 7:30 we buy bread and soon after get into our hostel room and collapse into beds. Such was my introduction to Split a city mired in history. Sure it's pretty, but so much of Croatia's coastline is more beautiful that looking back Split's a dulling place. Diocletian's Palace is the highlight but otherwise there's not all that much to see or do. The city is the gateway to get to the Adriatic islands and those islands and Diocletian's Palace are worth the trip so get in and find the Jadrolinija booth (for ferry tickets) and get out!

Hvar. I think Hvar spawned the phrase "we win at vacation." It is unfairly beautiful. Why this little island gets to have it all I know not. Detroit should be pissed off. Hvar's old Medieval town center, framed by the spires of two monasteries sits below a 15th century Venetian fortress towering over the city and looking out onto the ever so blue as always Adriatic. Renowned for its nightlife come summer, in April the season hadn't yet begun and the island died at about 10 PM but the days were gorgeous and there was much sun to be had on the rocky beaches.

Monday, April 27, 2009

This Is Water

In several emails written during my recent trip to the Balkans, I tried to communicate the color of the Adriatic Sea and despite using countless adjectives and modifiers, I never found the write expression to capture the deep, heavy blue of the Croatian coast. Nor could I define the incandescent humming blue-green of the Tara River Canyon cutting down from Sarajevo to Mostar or the depth of the graying fjords of Montenegro. So, stealing my post title from a David Foster Wallace essay, here are a sampling of photos from the Balkans and back again.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Travel Update: Prishtina, Kosovo

Where to begin? Since my lost post, I've darted down the blue watered Croatian coastline, ducked around the largest fjord in southern Europe and climbed over the Accursed Mountains. I've ate more burek and drank more pivo than is good for anyone and now I'm dodging this Kosovar rain/mud storm at an internet cafe. The trip's been so many things and I hope to provide a little more synthesis when I'm back in Paris on April 27.

But for now, I'll give a quick summary of my time in this young nation. My friend Rafael and I left the bus station at about 6 am and walked up Bill Klinton (that's how they spell it) street and made our way to the "city center." The city has no true center except for the UNMIK compound (UN Mission in Kosovo) housing lots of police and development workers. This is the first time I've really seen an active UN or EU in a developing country. Aside from all the SUVs brandishing the yellow stars of the EU, I haven't seen any unified projects except for the park financed by the Italian government near my hostel. Thanks, Silvio!

But, otherwise, Prishtina sprawls for several dirty and dusty blocks of cigarette hawkers and concrete buildings. I hope the US remains high in the hearts of the Kosovo people because if we make a bad move and they catch up with the rest of the world in Bush bashing they'll have to rename just about everything from Robert Dole Street to Route 66 Cafe.

Off to Sarajevo tomorrow, then an extended stay in Mostar before dashing back to Zagreb and Paris! Will have many, many pictures when I'm back.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

East to Eden

So much for Spring. The rains and gray have returned once again. Hemingway did caution against the "false Spring" in Paris and I should listen to him, but it is too difficult to not enjoy the gardens and the sunlight when it is to be had.

I'm preparing for my trip to the Balkans with salty visions of the Adriatic and I find my mind has already drifted East.

I'll most likely not be posting during those two weeks, but I promise to have pictures and stories and thoughts up when I get back to Paris at the end of April.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Wishful Thinking

Image via

A note: This piece represents the accumulated frustration of watching two years of impotent city governments in Washington, D.C. and Prince George's County fail to reach a deal with D.C. United for a new stadium.

There hasn't been much good news for us soccer fans in the nation's capital the last few months. From the demise of the Poplar Point stadium project to a mediocre 2008 season, D.C. United supporters have suffered waves of injuries and watched high priced foreign talent capsize in MLS. We've been told we can't stay at RFK Stadium, but can't seem to find anyone willing to let us build a new stadium. At least Ben Olsen is playing again these days.

When Victor McFarlane and Will Change bought the team in 2007, they rode into town with deep pockets, ready to throw bags of cash down on a new stadium, the aforementioned Poplar Point Stadium on an undeveloped piece of land in Anacostia, D.C.'s poorest ward. The plan had the support of then mayor Anthony Williams and of then mayoral candidate Adrien Fenty. The team would foot the bill for the stadium and McFarlane would develop the rest of the area surrounding the stadium, promising mixed-use development in an area desperate for investment after years of neglect from a city that has kept its eyes firmly fixed on the other side of the river. In return, McFarlane asked for $200 million in tax incentives and infrastructure improvement from a city still swallowing the $611 million baseball stadium that had been shoved down their throats.

Winning election in 2007, Fenty saw Poplar Point as the crown jewel of his mayoral legacy. Just as Williams has staked his legacy on the success of the Nationals in D.C., so Fenty saw an opportunity for Poplar Point and wanted more. He took McFarlane's plan off the table, opened the project up for competitive bidding, and, subsequently, awarded development rights to Clark Realty.

With no hopes of controlling surrounding development rights, McFarlane said goodbye to the city that had welcomed him with open arms a year before knowing that without developing the rest of Poplar Point, spending his money on a stadium would not be profitable. Just as Abe Pollin built not only the Verizon Center, but also much of the surrounding commercial and residential real estate in the Gallery Place/Chinatown area, McFarlane envisioned a similar renaissance for Poplar Point, but with his plan taken off the table, he ran to Prince George's County, hoping to get the taxpayers to foot the bill for a United stadium. But talks over that project have stalled and are all but dead as politicians are reticent to commit to public spending during a financial crisis.

I've never supported publicly financed stadiums. I think the United plan was a raw deal for P.G. County taxpayers who would never have seen the kind of economic benefit county and United officials had been touting. A suburban soccer stadium will never be a "landmark destination" in P.G. County. No United fan wants to spend his or her evening out at the Morgan Boulevard Metro stop.

Look at the recent success of the Washington Capitols (and soccer teams in Seattle and Toronto). The Caps, in addition to bringing in Alex Ovechkin and winning a lot of games, have targeted a young demographic eager to spend their disposable income on hockey tickets and beers in Penn Quarter. It's cool to be a fan of the Caps in D.C., just as it's cool to support Seattle Sounders FC or Toronto FC. Now if someone proposed a United stadium at the corner of 14th and U with public money I might change my mind, but I don't think the $611 D.C. paid for baseball will pay-off for the taxpayers nor do I think a Prince George's County stadium would have driven a suburban renaissance.

As for Poplar Point, the project could be nearing completion under the guide of United and McFarlane. From my perspective, the city's $200 million investment would have been incidental given the fact that any development on the Poplar Point property would have needed new roads and expanded Metro access if they had built a stadium facility or not. For McFarlane, who has committed over a billion dollars in development in this city, it seems like a small price to pay for development in an area that craves it and during a period when we need to be creating jobs in the District.

But this dream is far from reality. Clark Realty dropped the Poplar Point project as the economy turned sour and the area remains as overgrown and underdeveloped as it was almost three years ago when this whole process started. And today D.C. United's project in P.G. County was finally given its coup de grace.

Worst of all, none of this blame has landed on Adrien Fenty, the man unwilling to be the champion of Ward 8, Poplar Point, and D.C. United. The residents of Ward 8, hungry for change, continue to not see the development their ward needs. As the unemployment rate charges to 10% and shows no signs of slowing, a few thousand construction jobs could go a long way to keeping families solvent and in their homes.

I'm sick of the waiting for something to get done and so is the team. As a soccer fan, I love seeing cities like Seattle and Columbus get behind their clubs, only to find myself feeling abject anger towards my home town. D.C's brought this city four championships in 13 years, spent countless hours working in the community, and brought together disparate sections of this city's diverse population, united in their love of their club. It's time we thank them and recommit ourselves to Poplar Point, Ward 8, and D.C. United's initial stadium plan.

Saturday, April 4, 2009