Everything You Need To Know About the 2014 World Cup

In which, for no good reason, I disparage a bunch of countries that probably have lots of nice people in them.

You guys, it’s World Cup season, which means it’s time to laugh at the rest of the world for caring so much about this event. Unlike the Olympics, which are our biennial (not biannual. That’s different.) chance to stick it to China and/or the USSR, America could not give a shit about this event. Like, it’s fun when we win, but then you have to celebrate with the kind of Americans who follow soccer, or as it’s known here in America, soccer. Because this is inevitable, let’s get all the soccer fan insults out of the way. They wear stupid scarves, inexplicably use “side” to mean “team,” “pitch” to mean “field,” “pace” to mean “speed,” “kilometer” to mean “0.621371” miles and annoyingly pluralize team names, as in “On a kilometer by kilometer basis, Brazil have the most pace on the pitch of any side.” Speak normally!

But back to the soccer. There are a lot of countries to keep track of in this tournament, so here’s a handy guide to the teams of the 2014 World Cup.

Group A

Brazil

For a country with such a rich musical tradition, somehow this is still the song I was most quickly able to associate with Brazil.

Win or lose, Brazil’s hilariously corrupt World Cup will go down in history as being hilariously corrupt, that is, unless an interesting soccer thing happens, in which case everyone will forget the billions of dollars used to construct useless stadiums across the country, including one in the middle of the Amazon that is only reachable by plane. Even if Manaus has two million people, it shouldn’t feel like you need Indiana Jones or that adventurer dude from Jumanji to get to a soccer stadium.  On the soccer side of thing, they’ve looked underwhelming so far, struggling to finish on their scoring chances and generally looking tight in front of their home crowds. (That might be the only bit of actual soccer analysis I have to give).

Mexico

Did you guys know that Mexico hates America’s soccer team? It’s true! In any case, Mexico wouldn’t even be in this tournament if it weren’t for America scoring late against Panama in qualification, so you’re welcome, Mexico. I’m sure whenever the Americans make it back to Mexico, they’ll be given their traditional welcome of a golden shower.

Croatia

Cameroon v Croatia: Group A - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

On the plus side, their uniforms double as picnic blankets when they’re not using them (the checkerboard element is taken from the Croat Coat of Arms, which is quite the tongue twister). On the downside, I’m pretty sure that every player on their team’s last name ends with ivicisevicicicic, which can be confusing.

Cameroon

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A Day At The Belmont Stakes

For the first time, I actually went ahead and physically attended the 2014 Belmont Stakes. I’m going to walk you through what it’s like to go to the Belmont Stakes, because unless you’re one of the 102,000 people who did so this weekend, you were probably watching from the comfort of your own home (or a Vegas sports bar. Or a prison TV lounge. Both of which may seem like they have their charms, after you read this piece).

Getting to the Belmont Stakes is of course to the first step of going to the Belmont Stakes. It is the second-hardest part of going to the Belmont Stakes. The hardest part, of course, is leaving the Belmont Stakes (we’ll get to that). Besides by car or horseback, there is exactly one way to get from Manhattan to Belmont Park, in the town of Elmont, and that is via the Long Island Railroad, or LIRR. The bad news about the LIRR is that anyone other than the very first people who shoved their way to seats have to stand for the entire forty-minute ride. The good news is that everyone on the train was in a good mood.

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Sheryl Sandberg Is Wrong: Bossy Children Are Terrible

As you probably are aware, Facebook COO and all-around successfulperson/self-appointed voice of womankind Sheryl Sandberg has launched a campaign to ban the word “bossy.” Let’s go over the positives of #BanBossy first:

  • It’s good to encourage girls.
  • “Bossy” does tend to be used on women and girls more so than on men and boys
  • Popular people such as Brigitte Bardot, Bob Benson, Bobby Brown, and Benjamin Button have the initials BB.

As you may have guessed, I have some quibbles with the Ban Bossy campaign. And not because in America you can’t ban words, and any attempt to do so is going to invite resistance. And not because if you’re going to tell people they can’t say a thing anymore, “bossy” is the most ironic choice possible. And not for semi-racism reasons. And not because this really only affects the little Sheryl Sandbergs out there, with the implicit message that non-leader (?) little girls can go die their worthless deaths. And not because campaigns against more vicious slurs like Ban Bitchy and Ban Cunty (I was uncomfortable even typing that!) would be more universal.

No.

lean-in_custom-575cb1cc7e2e0e704abfffbc2a0ce498dafad0f8-s6-c30The problem with Ban Bossy is…do we really want to live in a world in which little girls are as awful and bossy as little boys?

Have you ever met a particularly “assertive” little boy? They’re the worst human beings possible. They assume you want to hear their boring, self-obsessed stories. They Lord of the Flies each other. Are these really the behaviors we want to be enabling in sweet, kind girls?

The answer is not, as Sheryl Sandberg would have it, to encourage girls to develop their leadership skills–it’s to discourage bossy behavior in boys and girls alike lest it fester into something more sinister and they end up becoming “leaders.”

For example, let’s let Sheryl Sandberg (and again I refer to her as “Sheryl Sandberg” because it’s just one of those names that is meant to be said in its entirety) explain what leaders are like as children:

When my brother and sister describe our childhood, they will say that I never actually played as a child but instead just organized other kids’ play. At my wedding, they stood up and introduced themselves by explaining, “Hi, we’re Sheryl’s younger brother and sister … but we’re not really her younger brother and sister. We’re her first employees—employee No. 1 and employee No. 2.” From a very young age, I liked to organize—the toys in my room, neighborhood play sessions, clubs at school.

In short: horrible monsters. Is that what’s wrong with society? Not enough children ruthlessly instilling order and discipline in their play time and trampling anyone who gets in their way?

In conclusion, #BanBossy is very exciting if you’re hoping some more girls can grow up to be women who join the ranks of great leaders such as George Bush, who led us into Iraq, Jordan Belfort who led investors to give him their money, and Richie Incognito who led the Miami Dolphins to bully the bejesus out of Jonathan Martin, and also, an 8-8 record.

I Am Excited About the Sochi Olympics And You Should Get Over Yourself and Be Excited Too

USA! USA! USA!
USA! USA! USA!

The Winter Olympics are kinda a weird event. They’re objectively worse than the Summer Olympics in every way. While the Summer Olympics are set in places like London, Beijing and Tokyo, the Winter Olympics gets Nagano, Salt Lake City and Lillehammer, whose Olympics would later be memorialized by Steven Van Zandt. If they gave out medals for kinds of Olympics, the Winter Olympics would win a silver medal. And these Sochi Olympics are getting a lot of guff from the haters out there. But you know what, the Sochi Olympics are going to be the best Olympics in years. Or at least since the last Olympics. Or at least one of the more interesting things on TV this month. Oh, but House of Cards is coming back. Well, it’ll definitely be the most interesting thing involving Russians on TV. Except The AmericansThe Americans will probably be more interesting than the Sochi Olympics. Still, you might have some concerns about these Olympics, and I’m here to explain why you needn’t worry because these Olympics are going to be great.

CONCERN: Why did they choose Sochi anyway? Sochi is not a real place. And its average winter temperature is a surprisingly warm 52 degrees.

RESPONSE:

Okay, so Sochi isn’t a booming metropolis (in Russia, you can tell which cities are metropolises because they’ve been renamed after some Commie mass murder and then re-renamed), but you can forgive the IOC for just assuming that Sochi was cold all the time. An easy mistake! Isn’t everywhere in Russia cold?

CONCERN: The Sochi Olympics are unbelievably corrupt.

RESPONSE:

First of all this is factually inaccurate. The level of corruption at the Sochi Olympics is very believable. Überbelievable. This is taking the usual corruption of the Olympics and multiplying it by the usual corruption of a government giving out no-bid contracts, and then putting all that to the Russian power.

For the visually inclined, the equation is as follows: (Olympics * no-bid contracts)^Russia

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Artisanal, Hand-Crafted Movie Recommendations

Mmmmm...anthropomorphic hot dogs
Mmmmm…anthropomorphic hot dogs

As the most beloved living film critic, people often ask me if they should see a movie, and for me, the answer is always yes because I like to have people to talk about movies with, and don’t really care if you waste two hours of your life on Black Swan or whatever. Still, in the interest of being somewhat helpful, here’s pretty much every movie I saw in 2013 as well as a description of what kind of person should watch these movies.

You should see this movie if you…

The Vanishing (1988)

…like the idea of you and a loved one being buried alive.

L’Enfant (2005)

…think poverty is a problem only if it happens to attractive French people.

Kid with a Bike (2011)

…think poverty is a problem only if it happens to attractive French kids.

La Haine (1995)

…think poverty is a problem only if it happens to attractive French kids in black and white.

Festen (1998)

…find it plausible that a big party could continue as if nothing happened after the host is accused of child molestation.

District 9 (2009)

…believe that comparing black Africans under apartheid to hideous bugs is helpful somehow.

Upstream Color (2013)

…think not enough movies center on piglet murder.

A History of Violence (2005)

…like your murders arbitrary and awesome.

A Prophet (2009)

…want to spend three hours being REALLY EXCITED about a guy slowly infiltrating the Corsican prison gang while growing a mustache.

Cries and Whispers (1972)

…wonder if being surrounded by bright red walls all the time keeps you from being awful and miserable (it doesn’t).

The Seventh Seal (1957)

…want to see chess with death!

Bicycle Thieves (1948)

…like Italy, but hate the persistent image of it as “fun.”
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Handicapping the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize Field

Nobel Prize Medal
“Oh yeah, I’ve been looking all over for that.” -Kofi Annan

NOBEL WEEK IS HERE, YOU GUYS!!!!

And while we’re all excited about the winners (score one depression-era Canadians who somewhat ill-advisedly go visit their ex-girlfriends with their young children everywhere!) in other categories, the granddaddy of them all, the Nobel Peace Prize will be given out on Friday. Without any further ado, let’s have a look at the contenders from Paddy Power’s list of bettable candidates.

YOU WOULDN’T KNOW HOW TO MAKE PEACE IF A DOVE EXTENDED AN OLIVE BRANCH TO YOU

100/1 Bono

For unifying the world in the opinion that Bono is a self-righteous prig.

80/1 Facebook

“What’s cooler than the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education? The Nobel Peace Prize.” -Sean Parker, The Social Network 2: Networkin’ For The Weekend

YOU ARE ACTIVELY OPPOSED TO PEACE IN ALL ITS FORMS

66/1 Vladimir Putin

Regrettably, the Nobel Prize for Achievement in Terrible Gay Bashing and Iron-Fisted Dictatorship was proposed to Alfred Nobel, but he decided it made more sense to have a Medicine category instead.

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The Xenophobe’s Guide to Foreign Movies

I know, I know–two things most people hate: learning and movies with subtitles. For those of you with a Netflix account know that the streaming options run a little thin after a while. At a certain point, American Pie 6: Pie in the Sky (that one’s about them all becoming fighter Pie-lots) starts to look relatively good.

But good news, there’s a whole other genre you might not have considered (you racist): ForeignerStuff. And in that genre, plots take entirely different directions, characters act in weird, nonsensical ways, and sometimes a guy who looks like Pau Gasol throws himself in front of a moving train. It can be hard to follow sometimes because often they don’t follow the conventions of American movies, which often have things like “characters,” “characters with names” and “a plot.” But fortunately, I’m hear to provide what I’ve learned so that you can figure out what the fuck is going on if you ever decide to watch any of these things.

South Korea

Barking Dogs Never Bite, 2000

The lesson: Seoul is a gigantic, depressing hellhole

Holy shit, look at the size of this chunk of an apartment building. There’s a person in it, running. Can you see him? Of course not because it all is just this enormous building forever and everything looks the same.

Screen Shot 2013-02-20 at 12.16.30 PM

Lady Vengeance, 2005

Fact: South Korea has some weird interpretation of Christianity that involves dressing up as Santa Claus

South Korea Sympathy For Lady Vengeance Santa Claus

When our hero, the kind-hearted Geum-Ja is released from prison, she is greeted by a Christian group, including those people. Also, someone gives her some symbolic tofu, which reminds me…

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