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Category: Arsenal

Umlauts and Rotten Spuds

I capped my birthday week with a glorious couple days from the Arsenal. First, we beat our nemesis Tottenham 1-0 in the North London Derby. After we lost to Villa 3-1 on opening day, and considering the club still had yet to pay for a single player during the offseason, there was a lot riding on the game. Had it gone bad, I think there would have been a mutiny at the Emirates.

It all comes down to the crazy business of football. I know I’ve written about it before, but the Transfer system in world football has no parallel in American sports. Imagine if the Cowboys could sign whoever they wanted, from any club, regardless of their contract situation, so long as they paid that club a “fair” price. It would be madness. Well, that’s the Transfer window. Sadly, because of clubs flush in oil-money, that market has become incredibly skewed, and teams that sit on their funds or try to develop talent organically walk a very tight line. Although they are one of the biggest, richest clubs in world, Arsenal have been financially limited since they built the Emirates stadium, and only within the last year have we been able to fully maximize the increased revenue streams the stadium opened. So, at the end of last season, when we snatched a 4th place spot and Champions League football from Tottenham, we the fans were promised an economically competitive team in the transfer window.

And then nothing happened. For 2 months.

We were rumored with every capable footballer in Europe, and even seemed close to some, only to have deals fall apart with little explanation. Meanwhile, our dreaded rivals, anticipating the world-record sale of Gareth, the human-monkey, Bale, had spent over 100 million pounds on new talent. As the final whistle blew in the opener against Aston Villa, things went…poorly. Chants of “Spend some fucking money” and “You don’t know what you’re doing” (the go to chant for fans who want a new manager) rang out and this epic fan rant went viral:

 

And even the most level-headed of Arsenal fans, for the most part, agreed with him. Lizz can attest that I was in a really terrible mood that day and it permeated our house. I know that is insane, but as a die-hard fan, this summer was torture and to see 2 months of ineptitude culminate in that defeat was too much. Luckily, our players have been through this type of situation before and they’ve become quite resilient. We rolled off 3 pretty impressive wins over the next week and half and set ourselves up fairly well for the North London Derby. After our 1-0 victory in which we completely dominated, the mood had certainly turned around. There was only that business of the Transfer window.

The final day of the Transfer window is something of a Holiday in England. Although clubs have the whole summer, a shocking number wait to pull off deals until the last minute. This is ridiculous for a ton of reasons. First, you have to agree a fee with the club, then you have to agree a contract with the player, then you have to complete a medical, then the player as to sign, and finally the paperwork has to be filed before the window closes. Naturally, Arsenal waited until half an hour before the window closed to announce their capture:

ozil

 

Mesut Özil.

The rumors had been brewing on this one since August 21st, but I had refused to believe them. It was just too good to be true. Özil is so good that it was inconceivable a club like Madrid, where he was probably the second best player, would sell him. And yet, because of the arrival of Tottenham’s own Gareth Bale, Madrid needed money and were willing to sell the young German. So of course, you can see the even more delightful irony of the situation. Spuds losing their best player causes us to sign one of the best players in the world, right after a defeat in our stadium. I’ve been on a cloud.

The glory:

 

Summah Break

If I’m posting, it goes without saying that it’s also been a while since I posted. Much of this was written last week, but my life has gone from boring to insane almost instantaneously. But before that happened, I managed to watch a bunch of movies.

Also, here’s to Aaron Ramsey, the shining light in the otherwise depressing last 2 months of being an Arsenal fan.
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To the movies:
Film #29: It’s a Disaster
(Writer & Director: Todd Berger)

A Netflix Instant special. I love David Cross, so I knew this was worth a shot. This is the couple’s comedy version of This is the End. Glen (Cross) and Tracy (Julia Stiles) visit her friends for a couples brunch. While there, their city is attacked with dirty bombs, and they wait it out in a house. Tensions rise, secrets are revealed, and emotions are toyed with. The script is fast, smart, and cutting, and for about an hour, I think it really works. The problem is that Berger doesn’t really seem to know where he wants this to go or what we are supposed to get out of it, so he relies on a weird, unearned twist in the final act that feels like a cop out. There are some genuinely funny moments and fantastic dialogue, but it doesn’t quite come together in the end. An interesting film though and worth a watch.

Film #30: Starlet
(Writers: Sean Baker & Chris Bergoch; Director: Sean Baker)
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Starlet is a little indie film from last year that won an Independent Spirit Award and picked up buzz online. I was happy to see it going on Netflix Instant because I probably wouldn’t have gone out of my way to see it. It definitely has the prototypical indie feel in terms of visuals and pacing and I don’t think there is anything about it that is spectacular. Jane (Dree Hemingway) finds a ton of money in a vase she bought from a cranky old woman, Sadie (Besedka Johnson), but she doesn’t return it. Instead, she tries to befriend Sadie to cure her guilty conscience, even though Sadie is resistant. The film doesn’t do anything revolutionary and the plot follows a fairly predictable path, but it is well made and engaging. In particular, Dree Hemingway is really fantastic. It’s hard not to fall in love with her portrayal of Jane. She’s a supermodel, so I’m not sure how well she’d fit into most films, but here, that look works perfect.

Film #31: Argo
(Writer: Chris Terrio; Director: Ben Affleck)

I’ve generally liked Affleck’s directorial stints, although I’d say they are really just solid Hollywood films. They remind me of Clint Eastwood’s films. Solid stories, professionally made, but nothing exceptional or unique. Argo is easily his weakest film and has easily been one of the most disappointing films I’ve seen recently. The biggest problem is Affleck’s on-screen performance. Tony Mendez is one of the most boring characters I’ve ever seen on film. There is NOTHING interesting about him. I don’t understand the character’s motivations, I don’t understand his backstory, and Affleck’s portrayal is so flat that it’s almost as if he isn’t even present. Similarly, on the direction side, Affleck does nothing to get us to care about the Americans Mendez is trying to rescue. Aside from one annoying couple, they are completely non-descript. We are given no reason to truly care about their safety, aside from the fact that they are American. I also think Affleck’s portrayal of Iran and its people is problematic and generic, but that’s an issue I don’t have the energy to get into. This could have been a really fun movie given its premise, but it just falls flat on all accounts.

Film #32: Safety Not Guaranteed
(Writer: Derek Connolly; Director: Colin Trevorrow)

This movie is so full of people I love that it’s hard not to enjoy it. Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is an intern at a Seattle Magazine who volunteers to help writer Jeff (Jake Johnson) investigate Kenneth (Mark Duplass), who is looking for a partner to go back in time with him. Their goal is to figure out who Kenneth is and why he wants to go back in time. Like any good indie film, this is both funny, beautiful, and sad. It’s a movie about how the past is always present, and how every person, no matter what they say, has something they wish they could change. I was particularly surprised with Aubrey Plaza who is really, really good here. Sure, she’s still that awkward Aubrey Plaza you know and love, but she brings a real humanity to this role that surprised me. Like It’s a Disaster and Starlet, this isn’t going to blow anyone away, but it’s solid, entertaining, and thoughtful filmmaking.

The Champions!

20130607-112408.jpgThe English Premier League season has been over for about a month now, and I’m already anxious for Arsenal to start playing again. The summer break is a good thing, because I’m not sure I could really handle any more of this season. Lizz often asks me if I get nervous or anxious about anything. I think the only thing I get truly nervous for is Arsenal. And with the positions they’ve put themselves in the last two seasons, I think that nervousness is justified. Once again, we waited until the last day of the season to seal our fate in the Champion’s League, and once again, Spurs are our victim. Justice.

Arsenal’s fight for the fourth and final Champion’s League spot is an example of all that is amazing and all that is terrible about soccer in Europe. More than any other sport, money is crucial to success. There is no draft to help struggling teams, there is no salary cap to even the playing field, and there is no organized ownership board to fight for and recognize the benefit of a balanced competitive environment. Similarly, the players aren’t unionized, which makes soccer the Wild West. The best player generally goes to the highest bidder, and everyone else is left fighting for scraps.

The money and prestige earned through participation in the Champion’s League has made it essential for top clubs, and luckily, Arsenal has earned a spot in each of Arsene Wenger’s years in charge. Commentators often chide Arsenal for treating a spot in the CL like a trophy, but its importance is hard to deny. I can’t imagine a world in which Portsmouth or Wigan fans wouldn’t trade their FA Cups for Champion’s League play. If your team makes the group stages, that’s an automatic $11 million. A win in the group stage gets you another $1.3 million and a draw $660K. Getting to the knockouts earns you nearly $4 million, and each round after that gets you more. Last season, Arsenal earned about $22 million in Champion’s League prize money. But additionally, they also played 4 more home games that they could charge premium prices for. Altogether, that annual money has become expected for Arsenal, and its loss would have radically affected operations.

I think the prestige of the Champion’s League is also overtaking international football in importance. Great players are expected to play in Europe, and if they don’t, their legacy is tarnished. As a result, a place in the CL is crucial in luring new players and keeping current ones. Top players don’t want to spend their prime in the Europa League.

These two factors have created self-fulfilling prophecy. It is very difficult for new teams to break into the CL, especially in a country like England. It takes a massive influx of money to even hope for it, something that we’ve seen in Chelsea, Man City, PSG, and now Monaco. Without that influx, it’s unlikely that teams can challenge. A team like Liverpool also demonstrates what can happen when you fall out of the Champion’s League. It isn’t an easy journey back. After qualifying for the previous 6 years, in 2009-2010, they finished 7th, and since then they’ve finished 6th, 8th, and 7th. They’ve paid out huge transfer fees on mediocre players in a desperate attempt to return to the Champion’s League, but they haven’t come close (suck it).

For Arsenal, this was a particularly crucial year because they are just now entering a period where they can truly spend. They were tied into mediocre deals in effort to build the Emirates, and those deals are now expiring and being replaced with more lucrative ones (they’ve signed a deal with Puma worth $30mill a year, a nearly $20mill increase over their previous deal with Nike. They are renegotiating a deal with the Emirates that will also drastically increase revenue). This new revenue should be put to use on players, but without the promise of Champions League play, I’m not sure we would be able to lure the talent we clearly need. We’ve spent the last 5 or 6 years buying good players in shrewd deals, but noone world changing. And we’ve brought in too many players that simply aren’t going to bring in hardware.

Now, whether Arsene is going to pull the trigger on the type of game-changing players we need is still to be seen. I can’t imagine his philosophy radically changing, but maybe we will start to see more shrewd $20-25million buys instead of $10-15million ones. I’m certainly prepared for disappointment on this front, but the way Arsenal is talking about this transfer window is radically different than the way they’ve spoken for the last few seasons.

New Semester

Since my Metro class ended on Wednesday, it has been a non-stop whirlwind. More precisely, it feels like it has been a whirlwind. Any person with a normal job would scoff at me, but hey, I can’t help how I feel! I graded final papers, submitted grades, got my UNO materials, planned the whole semester, bought a bike, and started the new semester. I’m thankful that MCC doesn’t start again until after Labor day; it gives me a little time to catch up and hopefully plan out what is going to be an insane quarter. As a result of all this, I haven’ really had time to write anything.

I’m very excited about starting at UNO. It feels really good to be back on a university campus. I love teaching at Metro, but a university is just different. Although getting all the technical things straightened out has been a nightmare, the class itself should be good. University students are just a different breed than community college students. They’ve got more energy, more enthusiasm, less world weariness. They are looking for entirely different things out of their courses. Most community college students are returning to school or going to school for the first time after a long break after high-school. As a result, there is always a hint of trepidation, fear, and unknowing. I like that. It makes me approach the classes differently. My goal there is to build confidence and skills that will be useful as the progress. But at a place like UNO, you are dealing, for the most part, with what I like to call professional students. The more technical aspects of the course are less important (formatting, using a computer) and you can move more quickly to the good stuff: ideas, theories, style.

The Premier League also began last weekend with Arsenal drawing 0-0 with Sunderland. Naturally, the ignorant footy pundits came out blasting Wenger for (again) selling off his best players, but both of those players started in last season’s opener against Newcastle that also ended 0-0. We heard the same complaints after that game as we did this one: Arsenal wouldn’t be able to cope without Fabregas and Nasri.

Once this team has time to settle, I have no doubts that they will be significantly better than they were last season. Yes, losing RVP is a devastating hit; but Wenger has lessened that blow through a more proactive and crude off-season. While we still have no idea how Podolski or Giroud will play out, I think their potential is undeniable. People forget it took RVP 7 years to really come good. More importantly, I think the way we have livened up our attacking options and the moves still pending (when will this Sahin deal go through!) makes this a much more threatening team.

First, Santi Cazorla is an undeniable upgrade. Last year, we really struggled to replace Fabregas. While Arteta is a wonderful player, he doesn’t really provide the daring creativity that Fabregas did. Cesc had a uncanny ability to see the pass that no one else saw and split defenses wide open (which makes the way he’s been used at Barcelona so disappointing). Wilshire also has the skillset, but his injury meant we couldn’t see it. Arteta just doesn’t have that daring in his style; most of his passes are fairly safe and short, which establishes our tempo but doesn’t directly create openings. That left Song to fill the creative gap, which he did well enough, but that often forced him out of position in the back. I think Cazorla allows Arteta to play the role he’s comfortable in while also allowing whoever plays DM (Diaby in the opener, possibly Coquelin as we move forward) to stay further back.

I’m also excited to see Wenger employ Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with more frequency. For me, he is our most exciting player and the team really lifts when he’s on the pitch. His performances at the Euros makes it difficult to keep him off the pitch if he’s healthy. If the Sahin deal goes through, I think that opens the door for Walcott to leave next summer which is no real loss in my mind. He was beyond terrible on Saturday. Regardless, with the Sahin move, we’ve got as exciting an attacking midfield as is in the league. With the chances they should be creating, I think Podolski and Giroud will do well to fill the gap left by the Traitor. Between those four new options, I think his 30 goals will be picked up easy enough.

Overall, I think we should be a comfortable top 4 team, fighting with Chelsea for third. I’d like to see us use the depth we are creating in the midfield to make a run in one of the cups. It would be so nice to win some silverware and shut the haters up. Wenger was held to the fire with Fabregas, Nasri, and RVP, but he deserves some recognition for what he has done with the resources available to him. If any other manager was at Arsenal, we would have slipped out of the Champion’s League long ago. I’ll take the way we’ve handled our business any day over the oil money billions used to prop up City, Chelski, or PSG.

Up the Arsenal!

New Comics 7/4

My local comic shop was open yesterday, which was awesome. Check them out: http://legendcomicsomaha.com/! In other news, Robin Van Persie announced he will not sign a new contract with Arsenal, which basically ruined my Fourth. I’m still angry today. I’m sure this will turn into a post when I can write about it in a way that doesn’t resort to ad hominem attacks and boiling rage. Ah, screw it. I hope you snap your knee, “Captain.” Arsenal forever, screw off non-believers.

Whew. Here we go.

Dial H #3 (Writer: China Miéville, Artist: Mateus Santolouco)

I don’t really know what else to say about this title; it’s easily the best thing DC is publishing. I hope people are buying this, and if they aren’t, I hope Miéville tries something else in comics. First, it’s hard to believe this is only 20 pages. There is so much packed in to those 20 that it puts almost every other book to shame. We met Manteau last issue, and here she saves Nelson, but not the H Dial, from Ex Nihilo and Squid’s thugs. We learn more of the history of the Dial (Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and other phone pioneers were actually aided by a mysterious “O” who created the H Dial). And we also meet are grand baddy, Abyss, who is also using the Dial powersource to return to Earth. Again, so much credit goes to Mateus Santolouco. It must be a blast to draw on this book. He gets to let loose and draw so many cool characters (brief Boy Chimney return!) and he nails each and every one. Just check out this panel: no less than 7 ridiculous characters flying around above a city. I hope we see more Rake Dragon, because that is hilarious (“that hortireptilian intruder”). If you love weird shit, this is for you.

Grade: A

Earth 2 #3 (Writer: James Robinson, Artist: Nicola Scott)

Whereas Dial H brings weirdness to comics, Earth 2 is straight up superhero action, but done really well. This is Alan Scott’s chapter as he becomes the Green Lantern after the train crash that ended last issue. James Robinson has just done such a wonderful job playing on the mythology of Alan Scott and the original (DC) Green Lantern. Whereas the old Alan Scott was a railroad worker, Alan Scott is riding on a train when he’s chosen. They also come up with a beautiful explanation for his ring, which was to have been given to his boyfriend before the crash. But what is most interesting, is that the Green Lantern is the Earth’s green avatar. And the bad guy which is revealed, Grundy, is connected to the gray (rot). So basically, we are getting the Earth 2 version of the Rot World story happening in Animal Man and Swamp Thing, but with different characters. Again, really creative way to move this title forward.

Grade: B

Mind MGMT #2 (Writer and Artist: Matt Kindt)

I re-read the first issue of Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT again and it really grabbed me in a way the first read didn’t. Now, with the second issue, the story is developing in a way that almost assures I’m stuck reading this. In particular, I’m very interested in the narrator here, who now seems to be a MGMT agent himself (a little genderly presumptuous, I suppose). I like the idea of assumed allegiance in reading. Who do we root for without thinking twice; who do we hate for unknown reasons; who do we presume is telling the story, and do we even question why they are telling it the way they are? All of these questions become a little more pressing here as the narrator begins to exert, both figuratively and perhaps literally, more control. Also, Kindt’s art is starting to grow on me. Lot’s of love in these pages.

Grade: B

The Punisher #13 (Writer: Greg Rucka, Artist: Mico Suayan)

With Daredevil, Marvel’s policy of double-shipping issues has actually been kind of nice because the format that Mark Waid has established allows him to do one-off, non-essential stories that don’t feel like filler. But here, the policy blows. This is the worst issue of The Punisher in Rucka’s run. Nothing comes together. The foremost problem is the art. Frankly (pun time!), it’s just terrible. I’m not even going to scan a page because it’s not worth it. There’s no finesse, no nuance, no creativity. It’s finished and that is about as much as can be said. As a result, the costumed infiltration story that the issue details just doesn’t work. It’s just so obvious the entire time, a by-the-numbers plot that feels phoned in. Maybe it’s the schedule getting to Rucka, but this thing needs to move forward.

Grade: D+

Animal Man #11 (Writer: Jeff Lemire, Artist: Alberto Ponticelli)

This is the conclusion to the “Extinction is Forever” arc, and Lemire does a nice job closing this up and setting up “Rotworld”. As an aside, for some reason the arc is completed by artist Alberto Ponticelli. That’s four artists since this title launched. While each person has maintained the Animal Man look, I just don’t understand why Pugh couldn’t have finished it out. I do love what Lemire does with Animal Man, though. Because his body was being used by the Rot, the Royal Tailors are forced to make him a new body, but they give this one enhanced powers, namely the ability to shape shift. This really just makes Buddy, who always feels a little pathetic, a badass.

Grade: B

Day 48 – The Last Weekend

Sunday is the last matchday of the 2011-2012 English Premier League season. This is the beauty of soccer and the table system. Although 37 games have been played, this final weekend still sees 6 (out of 10) games with significant implications for this and next season. On the top, you have teams fighting for Champion’s League spots, while on the bottom you have teams desperately trying to avoid relegation to the Championship (England’s second division). The only thing left fighting in the final games for major America sports are playoff spots, which don’t hold the sort of implications that both relegation and Champion’s League play have for soccer.

Here’s the fixture list:

First, the games with no real implications. These involve mid-table teams that aren’t at risk for the drop or Europe.

Norwich City v. Aston Villa
Swansea v. Liverpool
Chelsea v. Blackburn
Wigan v. Wolves

Now, the rest of the games, starting at the top of the table:

Manchester City v. Queen’s Park Rangers
City are unfortunately top of the table (both City and United are level at 86 points, but City have a better goal differential, proving that every game counts), as they’ve spent and cheated their way to success. They are gutless; they are cowards; and I hate them with my whole being. If they win, they will be Champions. The only thing that will make this okay is if some blessed QPR player snaps Samir Nasri’s leg.

On the flip side, QPR are in 17th place and only 2 points above Bolton. If they lose and Bolton wins, they will be relegated to the Championship. A draw will guarantee they stay in the top flight while also opening the window for United to claim the championship. As an added twist, QPR is coached by Mark Hughes, who was the initial City coach when Papa Moneybags took over.

Prediction: 3-0 (although I’ll be sacrificing small children for a QPR result)

Sunderland v. Manchester United
United have to win and hope City don’t. Simple as that. Sunderland really have nothing to play for other than the fact that everyone hates Manchester United.

Prediction: 0-2 (and sadly, I want United to win the league)

Now for games with Champion’s League implications.

Some background: The top 4 teams in England are automatically entered into next year’s Champions League competition, the premier club competition in the world. In addition to fighting for glory, the Champions League also provides tens of millions of dollars in additional income. If you can consistently stay in the Champions League, you will have more money than every other team. Right now, there are three teams still vying for the 3rd and 4th spot: Arsenal, Tottenham, and Newcastle. But of course, this year has a wrinkle. Although Chelsea is in 6th place and has no chance of cracking the top 4, they are also in the Champions League final. If they win, they gain automatic entry into the competition next year, stealing the 4th spot from the EPL. Additionally, the 4th spot only guarantees you entry in the final playoff round of the CL, not the group stages. This year that is especially significant because of Euro 2012. The final playoff round begins before the EPL season, and many players at top clubs will still be recovering from the tournament. For a team like Arsenal, it is likely that they will be missing many players in that first leg of the playoff. So third place is crucial.

West Bromwich Albion v. Arsenal
After basically having 3rd place sewn up a month ago, Arsenal have drawn and lost their way into danger. It is quite simple for them Sunday: If they win, they take 3rd. If they they draw, they need Tottenham to draw or lose. If they lose, they need Tottenham to draw or lose AND Newcastle to draw or lose.

West Brom are not fantastic at home (6W, 3D, 9L); they don’t score many goals (only 19), but they also don’t concede many (19). They shouldn’t have much to play for, except that it is their last game with manager Roy Hodgson before he takes over as England manager. Earlier this season, Arsenal beat them 3-0 in a really uneven game. BUT, Arsenal have been terrible as of late. Their defensive frailties have returned and they give up cheap goals.

This is a massive game for Arsenal. Given what occurred last summer and at the beginning of this season, it is a miracle we are even in a Champions League position, let alone playing for 3rd. If we can guarantee a Champions League spot, I think we open the floodgates this summer and do some actual, positive business. But we can only do that if we can guarantee top players Champions League games. And without the guaranteed money, we can’t buy.

Prediction: 1-2 (and I probably die of a heart attack)

Tottenham v. Fulham
I’d be much more worried about Arsenal’s position if it wasn’t Tottenham chasing them. Last week, they had a chance to grab third and they absolutely choked. It was incredible. I’m hoping that Clint Dempsey scores a brace and transfers to the team he helped keep in the CL, Arsenal.

Prediction: 1-1

Everton v. Newcastle
Newcastle have had a remarkable run. Alan Pardew has built a fantastic team with brilliant signings. If any team truly deserves the CL, it is them. Unfortunately, I just don’t see both Tottenham and Arsenal losing. Plus, Everton is a downright stubborn team.

Prediction: 2-2

Relegation Battle:

Stoke City v. Bolton
Bolton need QPR to lose to City and then to beat Stoke. I like Bolton and I like Owen Coyle. If they go down, I think it will be more a result of a tsunami of bad luck then bad play. Stuart Holden broke his leg, Fabrice Muamba almost died, Gary Cahill dumped out for Chelsea, etc. Stoke is a really tough place to play and I just don’t see them getting the necessary win, even though QPR is going to leave them a chance.

Prediction: 1-0

Come on you Gunners!

Day 40: Magic Goldfish

First, legendary comic book artist Jean Giraud (Moebius) passed away. Although his comic stuff is difficult to get your hands on, if you’ve seen Blade Runner or The Fifth Element, you’ve seen his influence. His work is stunning whether you like comic books or not.

I’m teaching Composition I again this quarter, which is always a fun class. Because it is sort of loosely defined in terms of goals, I can really play around with the content. The book is fairly boring, so I try to throw in things that I would enjoy reading (knowing full well my tastes do not always sync with those of my students). If I don’t enjoy the material I’m teaching, I can’t ever expect my students to. So, we will be reading a full comic (Grant Morrison’s Animal Man #5), watching the “Remedial Chaos Theory” episode of Community, and doing some interesting (hopefully) in-class stuff.

My first assignment of the quarter, though, is always a simple one. I have them read a short-story by Etgar Keret titled “What, of This Goldfish, Would You Wish?” It is a story about a young Israeli film-maker named Yonatan who decides to travel around the country asking as many people as he can what they would wish for if they had a magic goldfish. His dream is to find an old, frail Arab man who will simply ask for peace. Then, Yonatan can sell the film, maybe to a bank. The twist happens when he knocks on the door of Russian immigrant Sergei, who, unbeknownst to Yonatan, actually has a magic goldfish. Sergei thinks that Yonatan knows about his goldfish and kills him out of fear. Then, the goldfish tries to convince him to use his one remaining wish to save the filmmaker.

I then have my students answer the title of the essay: if they had a magic goldfish that granted three wishes, what would they wish for? I love this as a first assignment because there is no better way to find out about your students than to learn their deepest wishes. You quickly learn about upbringing, economic standing, worldview, etc. Shockingly, many students ask for very simple things: money to get through school, a good job, a nice house. Given only the limits of their imagination, they ask for simple comfort. Beautiful. Other students really push themselves and go for more philosophical ideas like wisdom, clairvoyance, and other superhero inspired powers. Others go predictable: fame and fortune.

Here are my wishes, with rudimentary explanations.

1) Incredible wealth. This is my practical wish. I think it allows me to cover a lot of other wishes: owning Arsenal, retirement for me, Lizz, and both our families, travel, etc. I guess I’m always shocked when my students don’t ask for this.

2) Time and location teleportation. The strongest emotion I ever feel is nostalgia. The curious thing is that I’m nostalgic for things I’ve never experienced. Time-travel gives me the ability to see the places and things my entrapment in the present has denied me. The location teleportation would allow Lizz and I to live in Seattle and Paris and London and not worry about airplanes and seeing our families.

3) Interstellar civilization. I love the idea of humanity spreading out into the galaxy, setting up new worlds, interacting with different species (should they exist), and generally recreating Star Wars. I guess this wish is my gift to humanity. You’re welcome, species. In combo with wish number 2, I’m seeing it all.

Day 37 – The Superiority of the Arsenal

Moments like these are what set soccer apart from all other sports. There is simply no equivalent to Captain Fantastic’s injury time volley. Van Persie had exactly two chances the entire game and capitalized on both to perfection. Unlike basketball in which anyone can chuck a three, or baseball in which every player gets a shot at hitting a homer, a 90 minute soccer match comes down to 3 or 4 key moments. Those moments are regulated by such an insane number of variables that it is a miracle anyone scores at all. In this case, Liverpool had been dominating from the opening kick. Arsenal rode their luck and some impressive goalkeeping until this opportunity arrived. First, Van Persie managed to just stay onside while getting behind the defense. Second, Song saw the run. Third, the pass was pitch perfect (and almost as impressive as what latched onto it. Definitely worthy of the kiss on the boot RVP gave Song in the celebration). Finally, Van Persie opened up his body and had the audacity to one-time it past a stunned Pepe Reina. The degree of difficulty on that volley is nearly indescribable; these types of goals are incredibly rare, which makes the frequency with which RVP seems to score them even more amazing.

P.S. Screw Liverpool right back to where they came from, the cheating, snivelling bastards.

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