UCL Draw Reaction

The UEFA Champions League Draw happened today and once again my beloved Tottenham are in the group of death. Group B consists of Barcelona, Tottenham, Inter Milan, and PSV Eindhoven. No game will be easy which should make this group incredibly exciting. Tottenham should be able to find there way into the round of 16, but do not be surprised if Inter or PSV steal a game.

Liverpool also has an incredibly tough group, with PSG and Napoli both in their sights. While I could see them winning the group, they certainly got a tough group as well, with both of those teams being stock full of talent and ready to win a title. PSG and Liverpool playing each other will be incredible to watch, both teams featuring high powered offenses this game should be a back and forth thriller. I like Liverpool to win the group, but PSG certainly have the talent to do so as well.

One group I am particularly excited about is Group F with Juventus and Manchester United. Cristiano Ronaldo will be coming home to play United and Paul Pogba will be coming home to Juventus. It is set to be a terrific game, and one full of electricity. The Ronaldo effect is real, and it is certain to make this draft incredibly interesting. Juventus have been in the champions league before, and should win this group especially with Man United’s recent struggles.

My pick to win the UEFA Champions League is Manchester City, which seems more plausible today after their group draw. With the likes of Shakhtar Donetsk and Lyon, it will be tough but City should breeze through their group. They have a team stock full of some of the most talented players in Europe, including the addition of Riyad Mahrez. Man City is the best team from the top down, and should be able to win in May.

Game of Thrones Quote #3

*The following contains spoilers from A Song of Ice and Fire/A Storm of Swords*

“How can it be treason to kill Lannisters, when it is not treason to free them?” asked Karstark harshly. “Has your Grace forgotten that we are at war with Casterly Rock? In war you kill your enemies. Didn’t your father teach you that boy?”

Is all truly fair in love and war? How do we decide what is too far in war and what is fair game? War is humans at their worst, choosing to kill each other in sake of defending a name, a purpose, an idea. When do we go to far and where do we draw the line?

Robb is faced with an incredibly tough decision here after seeing one of his lords brutally murdering two of their captives, Tion Frey and Willem Lannister, both of whom are enemies. Lord Karstark took their in response to his children’s lives being taken from him. An eye for an eye seems maybe reasonable, but Robb argues that they died in honorably on the battlefield and that this was pure murder. This was treason and therefore the message needed to be sent that this was not allowed.

This is painful as Catelyn made the decision to release Jaime Lannister in order to on the off chance he maybe able to retrieve her daughters. This caused Karstark to do this and send out a hunting party for Jaime with the promise that whoever captured him would be given his daughter Alys; and with that a claim to Karhold. This was disobeying a direct order, and yet it in some sense feels slightly reasonable on both sides. Both Catelyn and Rickard are dealing with the death of their children in similar ways. Catelyn believes her sons to be dead causing her to act irrationally in order to retrieve her daughters. Rickard Karstark views this release as a horrible affront to his children’s legacy, and decides to take vengeance in a horrific way.

Is this treason or vengeance? I can understand the trap this put Robb in, and while I am not sure I would have had the guts to execute him, it is a brilliantly executed chapter dealing with the consequences of love and war. What makes this series terrific, is its ability to bring out the pain in seemingly heartless decisions, and this chapter is absolutely terrific showcase of conflict and pain.

COME ON YOU SPURS!

I apologize if you are a Manchester United fan or if you are a grammar snob, but HOLY CRAP WE DESTROYED MAN UNITED AHHHHHH! That game was incredible and Lucas Moura was terrific. Incredible performance from him which included two goals, one of which ended Chris Smalling’s life.  Incredible day and game. If you want to relive every moment the extended highlights are here. I hope you all had a great Monday!

On John McCain and Camp

John McCain was one of my idols and one of the finest Americans our country had left to offer. Committed to a life in public service, he made us proud both at home and abroad, and stuck to his principals regardless of whatever might have stood in his way. He wrote an op-ed in the New York Times about the Ernest Hemingway novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, and I think it is a terrific encapsulation of who the man was and what he stood for. He is a true American in every sense, and I will speak on behalf of everyone and will say that we will miss him.

The news came as I was away in Traverse City for the Michigan Club Track team this weekend, which was an incredible experience. It was my first time in Northern Michigan, and it is absolutely beautiful. Going away and being with some of my best friends was a great experience and motivated me for the school year and track season. I hope everyone had a terrific weekend!

 

Minding the Gap, Boogie Nights, and Donald Trump

Yesterday was a movie day, as I sat in my new apartment taking in Ann Arbor. I watched two both of which were phenomenal.

  1. Minding The Gap (Hulu) – Bing Liu’s debut feature is one of beauty and heartbreak in the American heartland, a story about himself and his two best friends. Skateboarding brings them together, but it is domestic violence that makes their connection all the more stronger and horrifying. Zach and Kiere, the two other subjects in this film along with Bing share a certain amount of anger, and often do not know how to express it. Skateboarding was their sweet escape, but as they grow up, they must realize who they need to become. It is beautifully filmed and told, with old skateboard footage and candid interviews that are honest and true to their subjects. This is the movie that Liu was born to make, and it comes out as moving as any film I have seen this year. 9.7/10
  2. Boogie Nights – Paul Thomas Anderson has made some of the most fascinating epic films, with There Will Be Blood being one of my favorites. His 1997 film Boogie Nights, covers the porn industry from 1977 to 1983 through the eyes of Dirk Diggler. While the movie covers the adult film industry, it focuses on the business side of pornography and brings out the characters of the people in it. Anderson always leaves a sense of dread, that behind these seemingly perfect lives is something more sinister waiting to come out. Burt Reynolds (Burt Reynolds!) is a standout as Jack Horner, the film maker determined to make adult films that mean something. 8.8/10

While I would like to just talk about movies today it seems the world has forced me into at least an article recommendation for the Cohen-Manafort fiasco. Frankly, I do not know how much of it I find interesting anymore, but my hope is that at the very least justice will be served. This more clearly puts Trump in the line of fire, and it will become significantly harder to keep calling this investigation a “witch-hunt” so long as two people in his closest circle are convicted. Conservative columnist Bret Stephens tweeted out the following, “I’ve been skeptical about the wisdom and merit of impeachment. Cohen’s guilty plea changes that. The president is clearly guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors. He should resign his office or be impeached and removed from office.” I could not agree more. If you are looking for a great explainer article, look no further than this one from Lawfare.

Also I will be away from tomorrow until Sunday and will not have my computer with me. I will not be writing anything during that time and will write as soon as I get back on Sunday evening. Have a great rest of your week everyone and happy El Tráfico week!

Crazy Rich Asians

So often, movies that are culturally important are either terrific or extremely overrated. Sorry to Bother You was culturally important but a bad movie, it failed to tell a story and preferred to force its political opinion on to its viewers. While BlacKkKlansman is far superior, it also fell into this trap at times as well. As a result, I had low expectations for a culturally important rom-com, as this genre of movies are not my favorite to begin with, and I was afraid that its cultural importance would make the film feel better than it actually was.

I am pleased to say that this film is very well done and exceeded my expectations in many ways. Regardless of ethnicity, most will have something in common with insanely rich people. However, this story has real conflict and strong female characters that work, and while it is at times self-obsessed with its opulence it manages to put together a complex story of love and family. While it cannot resist the rom-com temptation to resolve everything, this movie makes an effort to make a complicated and nuanced story with fascinating characters, which allows the movie to stand up on its own two feet. Constance Wu is the stand out as main character Rachel Chu, who does a remarkable job showing her strength and resolve around people who are not fond of her. This movie is a winner and it is grounded in good writing and performances, definitely worth a viewing. 8.5/10

Storage Squad Woes

I have spent the last few days moving into my apartment in Ann Arbor which has been an arduous and exciting process. This process had its ups and downs, but it was made more difficult by the people at Storage Squad, a storage company I used to save money on storing my stuff in Ann Arbor.

As an out of state student at the University of Michigan, I cannot take home everything with me, which is why I needed to store my things with a company in Ann Arbor. I chose Storage Squad over others because of its fares and its box size, which brought the cost down for my storage substantially compared to John’s Pack and Ship. While that was nice, they showed an inability to communicate and give us our packages on time, causing for much time to be wasted which would have been saved with John’s Pack and Ship.

Storage Squad told us they would be at my apartment from 3-5 on Saturday of August the 18th. I paid 50 extra dollars in order to make sure the packages showed up on time. Not only did they never showed up, we were not contacted that they would be unable to make it. My Dad & I waited until 6:45 before deciding to forget it. We were then told they would show up from 2-4 on the 19th. We were contacted at 3:30 that they would show up soon, and it took until 5:00 for our packages to come. Despite numerous efforts to contact storage squad we received nothing from the company other than they were coming soon. We were told by the driver that someone called in sick and no one picked up the shift, but that was all.

I will not blame the driver, as it was one guy delivering packages all over Ann Arbor with no way to contact his customers, which is unfair. Storage Squad is supposed to be the liaison between the driver and the customers, and they did a horrific job. If you need to store things in Ann Arbor, do not use storage squad. John’s Pack and Ship seems to work best, as my roommates things are already in John’s Pack and Ship boxes waiting for them to arrive.

The Death of Stalin & Watching Movies on Airplanes

Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin is biting and delirious, bringing out the narcissism in those who grab for power. A satirical game of thrones, it is at times less funny than it is ridiculous and absurd, but this movie works as it showcases what drives some of history’s fiercest men. Many will wonder if these men, who have killed and otherwise brutalized too many people to count are worth satirization. However, this movie works and even allows for laughter in some of its darker moments. Standouts are Jeffrey Tambor as Georgy Malenkov and the wonderful Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev. Tambor captures Malenkov’s desperate need to solidify himself as a leader, whilst Buscemi captures someone willing to be conniving in his own way. This is an excellent film, and while it lacks a certain energy at times, it is a winner from Iannuci, who builds on his success from Veep. 8.5/10

This movie was watched on an airplane, which is an interesting way to watch movies. I generally have trouble hearing the dialogue, as it times can be a bit quiet due to the noise surrounding the cabin. However, with the right film and an audible volume, it can definitely be a viable way to watch a film. That being said, movie theaters are the way movies are meant to be watched, and if you can that is still the best way to watch cinema.  It enhances your ability to view and critique the movie, as somethings work and do not work based on the size of the screen and the acoustics of the movie theater. My advice would be is is you are going to watch a movie on a plane pick one that focuses more on dialogue and less on violence (unless of course you want the violence to be reduced). Big screens and sweeping volumes enhance a movie more in a theater than does dialogue, and while any movie is better in theaters the lowest dip in quality will be with a dialogue focused movie rather than a action focused movie.

 

Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air

How little do doctors know the hells through which we put patients.

Paul Kalanithi was completing his residency as a neurosurgeon, and was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer, and his dream life was immediately put on hold. In his book When Breath Becomes Air, he deftly discusses life, love, and the meaning of loss. It also explores the balance between patient and doctor, and how each perspective can teach you about the importance of both.

His understanding of life and his lifelong quest to find meaning in life and how our brains and bodies shape our experience is fascinating and heartwarming. It is a beautifully written book, one that captures the pain of a dream life being taken away and understanding how to prepare for death. I have not read a book that was as emotional since Tuesdays with Morrie, and if that is not enough to recommend this I do not know what is. This is an important read and one that you will not regret.

How LAFC won me over

I have followed soccer for a few years now, and despite being from LA, I failed to really get into the LA Galaxy. However, after my third LAFC game I am officially a fan of the club.

The stadium is absolutely gorgeous, in the middle of Expo Park, you can see the sun setting as you walk in. Meanwhile, the fans are electric, while the supporter section is full and rocking. In any club’s first year, getting a supporter’s section to even show up is an accomplishment in itself. Not only are fans there, but they are absolutely rocking.

The players this team has are young and exciting, most notably former Real Sociedad player Carlos Vela. Every time he touches the ball he seems to make music, flicking the ball onward, nutmegging players, and grinning after each effort. This along with new signing Christian Ramirez, speed racer Latif Blessing, and captain Laurent Ciman have created a culture in their first year that is one of the best the MLS has to offer.

If you live in the area and have not been to an LAFC game, I encourage you to go, they are not super expensive and is insanely fun. I think this team is great for LA’s soccer culture, as it gives us a soccer rivalry to be proud of and grows the game in our city and our country.