Archive for August, 2014

Mesut Özil, His Critics, and Smart Sports Writing

30 August 2014
My favorite footballer Mesut Özil. Image from Wikipedia

My favorite footballer Mesut Özil. Image from Wikipedia

Long time readers of this blog may recall that I enjoy watching soccer, and, in particular, I am a big fan of a Turkish-German international soccer superstar named Mesut Özil. Özil had a standout tournament at the 2010 World Cup. He then played for Real Madrid, before transferring to Arsenal last season. This Summer he was a starter for the 2014 World Cup winner Germany soccer team.

Truth be told, he hasn’t had a great great year. He was on a new somewhat-less-all-star team in a different league, was injured and out a month or so just after the start of 2014. Arsenal paid a lot to sign him, so some Arsenal fans are disappointed he hasn’t scored dozens of goals yet.

I really enjoyed this article at the Guardian this week. The title is Will the real Mesut Özil please stand up? Very possibly at Arsenal this season. it was written by Barney Ronay. U.S. sports writing (not that I would really know) just doesn’t use big words like tessellate. Here’s a selection:

Certainly at times last season Özil resembled not so much a high-end creative midfielder as some beautifully frail alien prince being ferried around from pitch to pitch by 10 dedicated human helpers yoked into fawning submission by his regal Martian glaze. In many ways his signing still looks like an act of mild debauchery for this lopsided Arsenal team, with its amusingly insistent excess of attacking midfield talent.

There is an argument that Özil simply isn’t the right player to build a team around, that he is only ever going to be a high-end component part, a needy little genius whose moments of fine-point inspiration arrive as a kind of repartee with those already at his level. Runs must be made, spaces found, angles devised, into which Özil’s own brilliantly gymnastic range of movement and passing will elegantly tessellate. Some might even say Özil has simply been lucky, that he is a kind of placebo footballer whose presence provides a garnish on trophies that would have arrived in any case, like the world’s greatest triangle player waiting in the wings to apply the perfect final tinkle with a single flex of a princely hand.

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A Letter to My Daughter Maeve on Her First Birthday

26 August 2014
You and me today - just a couple weeks after you turned one

You and me today – just a couple weeks after you turned one

July 30, 2014

Precious awesome little person! My daughter Maeve,

I love you and I love being with you. So much I can feel it in every cell. As I look back at pictures I am struck with how much you have grown and learned in one year. So much more than you will ever grow in one year again. It seems to have gone so fast and its an interesting experience to love someone who is changing so much – its hard to not want it to go slower. You have been so continuously occupied with becoming you I feel like I have been able to perceive only a part of it.

Just a few weeks after you were born

Just a few weeks after you were born

Your birth went very well. You, your dad and I were at home surrounded by great people and there was lots of family near by eagerly waiting to meet you. Once labor started it ramped up quickly and the process was purely intuitive. We did great. And when you came out it was a truly amazing moment. There YOU were and we were so happy.

I want to write to you at your birthday every year about the proceeding year and some of the things you or we did and hope that you enjoy reading these letters in the future.

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Cormac McCarthy on Scorn for Anything Not Learned First Hand

7 August 2014
The cover of Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses.

The cover of Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses.

My wife and I have been reading Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses – mostly when we’re in the car. Carrie’s driving and I am reading it out loud. It has all these great long sentences (that no English teacher would have left unmarked) that aren’t all that easy to read out loud.

There are lots of ands. Almost no commas, no quote marks, nearly no apostrophes. Some misplaced modifiers too. Lots of joined words, too – like “hitchingrail” instead of “hitching rail.” Overall, and I am not sure exactly why or how, it really works. It sounds like poetry a lot of the time… but it’s also kind of sparse and at the same time drawn out, attenuated…

There’s a lot to like in this book, one of my favorite books by one of my favorite writers (and one of the many great books initially recommended to me by my mother), but, during this read-through, this passage has stuck in my head. It takes place in late 1940s. Protagonist John Grady and his friend and fellow traveler Lacey Rawlins have ridden their horses from Texas into Mexico:

After dinner they sat at the table and smoked and drank coffee and the vaqueros asked them many questions about America and all the questions were about horses and cattle and none about them. Some had friends or relatives who had been there but to most the country to the north was little more than a rumor. A thing for which there seemed no accounting. Someone brought a coal-oil lamp to the table and lit it and shortly thereafter the generator shut down and the lightbulbs hanging by their cords from the ceiling dimmed to a thin orange wire and winked out. They listened with great attention as John Grady answered their questions and they nodded solemnly and they were careful of their demeanor that they not be thought to have opinions on what they heard for like most men skilled at their work they were scornful of any least suggestion of knowing anything not learned at first hand. (p. 95-96)

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Maeve’s First Birthday, Three Generations of First Birthday Photos

3 August 2014
Three generations of first birthdays: left to right: Susan Palmer, Carrie Lincourt, and Maeve Linton Lincourt

Three generations of first birthdays: left to right: Susan Palmer, Carrie Lincourt, and Maeve Linton Lincourt. Larger versions of these photos below.

Our daughter Maeve turned one this week. Carrie and I were pretty skeptical about one-year-old’s birthday parties. We’ve seen more than one child have a crying melt-down when there are a dozen-plus older kids running around and lots of noise and attention and confusion. So we opted for a low-key celebration at Maeve’s grandfather’s home in Orange County. Just a handful of family members. Here’s a video of the occasion. We’re sure that there will be bigger birthday celebrations in Maeve’s future.

Maeve turned one on July 30th. She’s doing well. Very healthy. She walks 2-5 steps here and there, but mostly she’s crawling, and frequently cruising holding onto tables, chairs, our legs, and other stuff. She’s saying mama, maaaaaaah!, and dada, too.

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