A 48-Team World Cup?


Recently, FIFA president Gianni Infantino suggested expanding the number of participants in the FIFA World Cup from 32-teams to 48-teams.  On the surface this proposal is absurd as the bloated World Cup would further dilute the talent of the teams participating, expand an already exhausting 64-match tournament to 80 matches, and be a mega event requiring massive infrastructure to support thus eliminating many countries from hosting (or worse, exploiting countries by making them build one-time use facilities with resources better spent on a nation’s people).  Nevertheless, I can still see how a 48-team field may work and make it possible for more countries to participate and to host World Cup matches.  It would require reimagining the staging of the World Cup into three phase.

The first phase, much like today, would be qualification at the level of the six continental confederations.  Increasing the field to 48 teams from 32 means that proportionately, the number of teams from each confederation would be as follows:

  • AFC – 7
  • CAF – 8
  • CONCACAF – 5
  • CONMEBOL – 7
  • OFC -1
  • UEFA -20

These 48 teams would be drawn into twelve groups of four, with seeding to allow for a balance of teams from different confederations.

The second phase would be group play of these twelve groups, scheduled in a two to three week international break in domestic leagues around February.  Each group of four would play in a different host country.  The goal would be for each confederation to have at least one country hosting a group of four.  After a 3-match round robin, the first place team in each group advances automatically to the final phase.

The twelve second place teams will be drawn to play home and away aggregate goal playoff to reduce the field to six.  The surviving six teams are drawn again to play another home/away playoff.  These three teams join the 12 teams already qualified and the host nation in the final field of 16.

The final phase will once again be familiar.  The 16 teams are drawn into groups of four and the top two teams from each group advance to a knock out round.  And that is how a 48-team World Cup could work. 

Advantages:

  • Expanding to 48 teams allows for me teams to participate in the World Cup and play competitive matches against teams from other confederations on a world stage.
  • Playing World Cup in phases allows for more matches without forcing them into an exhausting schedule concentrated in a month’s time.
  • Any country with at least two good stadiums can host a group in the second phase.
  • The final phase has a smaller number of teams – appealing to traditionalists – and makes it possible for many countries to host without breaking the bank.

Disadvantages:

  • Still may be too many games and too many teams. 
  • Too long an interruption of domestic league seasons. 
  • Too spread out over space and time. 

Book Review: Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann


Author: Colum McCann
TitleThirteen Ways of Looking
Narrator: Colum McCann
Publication Info:  Random House Audio, 2015
Previously Read by the Same Author:  Let the Great World Spin and Transatlantic
Summary/Review:

That Colum McCann sure can write!  This collection of four stories shows McCann’s skill at stringing together sentences, developing characters, and creating entire worlds through rich description in just a short space of time.  The stories include:

  • “Thirteen Ways of Looking” – recreates an elderly, retired judge’s last day shifting between his own perspective and what is recreated from surveillance video.
  • “What Time Is It Now, Where You Are?” – an author commissioned to write a New Year’s story begins with the concept of a solitary soldier on duty in Afghanistan but the spirals out control adding additional characters, details, and settings.
  • “Sh’khol”- a woman on the coast of Ireland loses her deaf and developmentally disabled son swimming in the ocean and reflects on her life as she devolves into panic.
  • “Treaty” – an elderly nun once held hostage by a guerrilla insurgency recognizes her captor, the man who raped and tortured her, on television posing as a peace activist.

This is definitely a good introduction to McCann’s writing and if you’ve enjoyed his other works a fine addition to his body of work.
Recommended books: Life Form by Amélie Nothomb
Rating: ****

Podcasts of the Week for the Week Ending October 16


To the Best of Our Knowledge – Time Travel
I’ve always been obsessed by time travel.  Here are some stories of other obsessives and the possibilities of making time travel a reality.
Planet Money – The Wells Fargo Hustle
An insiders’ view of the latest scam in the banking and finance industry
To the Best of Our Knowledge – The Problem With Men’s Locker Rooms and Women’s Restrooms
This short episode takes on topical issues, but is most fascinating when discussing the Dutch culture of teaching children about sexuality and the history of segregating spaces by gender.
The Replacements were a great band of the 1980s who were “five years too early, and ten years too late.”  This is their story from their biographer.  I need to listen to more of The Replacements.  Perhaps a Musical Discovery?

Music Discoveries: David Bowie, 1967-1974


Although I only began posting “Music Discoveries” a few months ago, I came up with the idea a few years back inspired by the fact that I needed to listen to more David Bowie. True confession: I have not always appreciated David Bowie’s music. I first became aware of Bowie as a child perhaps during his most commercially accessible period when he had hits like “Modern Love,” “Jazzing for Bluejean,” and a strange duet with Mick Jagger covering “Dancing in the Streets.” I remember my sister and I seeing a tv spot about Ziggy Stardust and marveling about how Bowie was really strange long ago (it was only about 10 years, but it seemed like lifetimes). Of course, it’s a credit to Bowie’s influence in that he made many of the New Wave/postpunk musicians of the early 1980s seem not so “weird” to begin with. Over the years I knew people who were devotees of Bowie but while I enjoyed a handful of songs I never paid much attention. The tipping point oddly enough came from watching the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012 where at one point they played Bowie’s song “Starman.” It was a song I was not familiar with and for some reason it resonated me and lead to me reevaluating my indifference to Bowie. And so, after all this time, I’m going to listen to David Bowie’s recordings from beginning to end.

Album: David Bowie
Date: 1 June 1967
Thoughts: This early recording is more of a curiosity of what Bowie sounded like in his earliest recordings than something  I’d want to put on to listen to for fun.  It’s baroque pop with that music hall style that was briefly popular in English rock music circa 1966-1968, with Bowie crooning out a few tunes.  The lyrics are slice of life with just a bit of weird (which means they were probably a lot weird in ’67).
Rating: **


Album: David Bowie (a.k.a. Man of Words/Man of Music, a.k.a. Space Oddity)
Date:14 November 1969
Favorite Tracks: “Space Oddity” and “Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed”
Thoughts: Bowie reinvents himself for the first time with his second debut album.  “Space Oddity” is a classic opening track, but not representative of the album as a whole.  Music roams around genres from the gentle folk and cabaret of his earlier album to electric folk rock and blues and orchestrated, theatrical pieces.  The latter include “Cygnet Committee” and “Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud” which seem to point to where Bowie is going in his later work, but also feel bloated and directionless.
Rating: **1/2


Album: The Man Who Sold the World
Date: 4 November 1970
Favorite Tracks: “The Man Who Sold the World”
Thoughts:  Bowie builds on the folk and cabaret styles of previous recordings and adds the edge of a psychedelic blues rock sound.  While I didn’t single out many tracks, I have to note that the quality is consistent from top to bottom, and I expect this is the first of many great Bowie albums.
Rating: ****


Album: Hunky Dory
Date: 17 December 1971
Favorite Tracks: “Changes,” “Oh! You Pretty Things,” and “Life on Mars?”
Thoughts: Everything that came before culminates in Hunky Dory.  I want to say this is the first album with the real David Bowie sound, but that’s nonsensical since his sound is forever changing.  Nevertheless, a classic.
Rating: ****1/2


Album: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Date: 16 June 1972
Favorite Tracks: “Five Years,” “Starman,” “Lady Stardust,” “Ziggy Stardust”
Thoughts: The concept album offers a lot to chew on regarding  aliens, fictional rock stars, and impeding doom.  Musically it’s a compilation of rock and roll styles bridging rockabilly to punk rock.  Another classic.
Rating: ****


Album: Aladdin Sane
Date: 13 April 1973
Favorite Tracks:  “Panic in Detroit,” “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” and “The Jean Genie.”
Thoughts: First, I love the pun in the title.  Second, I was surprised that I was not familiar with really any of the songs from this “classic period” album except for “The Jean Genie,” and it was nice to come to it “fresh.”  It reminds me of The Man Who Sold the World for having a hard rock edge (a Rolling Stones’ influence that includes a Stones’ cover) with Ziggy Stardust’s free movement among rock and roll genres, and theatricality one comes to expect of a David Bowie album.
Rating: ***1/2


Album: Pin Ups
Date: 19 October 1973
Favorite Tracks: “Friday on My Mind” and  “Where Have All the Good Times Gone”
Thoughts: Another revelation to me is David Bowie as an interpreter of other people’s music, but here is an album entirely of cover songs.  The collection of rock and roll tracks from the mid-60s betrays a nostalgic side of Bowie previously seen in his songs about Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan,  as well as his cover of “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”  The presentation is interesting as the songs run together sounding a bit like a garage band concert recording.
Rating: **1/2


Album: Diamond Dogs
Date: 24 May 1974
Favorite Tracks: “Diamond Dogs,” “Rebel, Rebel,”
Thoughts: Dystopian visions and gritty guitars mark this album that draws on George Orwell and the Rolling Stones and presages the transition from glam to punk. Brilliant, but also difficult to listen to.
Rating:

Next week:  the rest of ’70s and all of the ’80s with David Bowie.


Beer Review: Harpoon Flannel Friday


Beer: Flannel Friday
Brewer: Harpoon Brewery
Source: 12 oz. bottle
Rating: ** (6.3 of 10)
Comments: Another autumnal beer, amber in color without much head or carbonation.  The beer offers floral and caramel notes and tastes mildly hoppy with some sweet citrus. Seems like an okay beer for the season, but it doesn’t excite me much.

From the same brewery:

Book Review: 1493 : Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles C. Mann


Author: Charles C. Mann
Title1493 : Uncovering the new world Columbus created
Narrator: Robertson Dean
Publication Info: Random House Audio (2011)
Previously Read by Same Author1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
Summary/Review:

A sequel of sorts to 1491, this book investigates the wide-ranging impact of contact between Eurasia & Africa and the Americas and exchange of people, animals, plants, and micorganisms that followed in the wake of Christopher Columbus’ voyages.  This is called the Columbian Exchange and is the root of today’s globalism.  Mann investigates a wide variety of topics, places, and times right up to the present day that resulted from this exchange.  It’s a fascinating overview of social and economical forces at work through history.
Recommended books:

The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan, Vermeer’s Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World by Timothy Brook , and Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
Rating: ****

Photopost: Old Sturbridge Village


To celebrate the beautiful weather our autumnal holiday, I wanted to get out of the city, get the kids outdoors, and enjoy some foliage. We go to do all three with a visit to Old Sturbridge Village, where we also witnessed an ox plowing competition, rode on a stagecoach, watched a musketry demonstration, and was amazed by a potter at at work at the wheel, among other things.

Here are some highlights of a most photogenic day.

Podcasts of the Week for the Week Ending October 9


A Far Cry performs at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum with pieces featuring a performance on the toy piano and an arrangement of “Amazing Grace” for clarinet.
Political narratives champion the “good” immigrant but still punish many people who make positive contributions to the country.
Fascinating story of a futuristic room designed to be the place where the economy of Chile would be controlled under the Salvador Allende government.  It would be destroyed by the Pinochet dicatorship with only one photograph surviving.
Fascinating interview with a hip-hop activist, community organizer, and former Green Party VP candidate touching on a lot of important issues the major parties are ignoring in this election.

Albums of the Month: October 2016


Ratings scale:

***** – An all-time classic album (highly recommended)
**** – Great album (recommended)
*** – Solid album (consider buying or streaming/downloading top tracks)
** – Weak album (only consider streaming/downloading top tracks)
* – Poor album (not recommended)


ARTIST: Warpaint
ALBUM: Heads Up
RELEASE DATE: 1 August 2016
RATING: **
FAVORITE TRACKS: “New Song”
COMMENTS: I enjoyed the band’s previous album, particularly the track “Disco // very” but there’s nothing that vital or energetic on this album.  It’s dream pop, but it’s more sleep inducing with bland musical arrangements and not much emotion in the vocals.  It’s getting good reviews, so your tastes may differ, but this one’s a bit too dry for me.


ARTIST: Against Me!
ALBUM: Shape Shift With Me
RELEASE DATE: 16 September 2016
RATING: ***1/2
FAVORITE TRACKS: “Boyfriend,” “Rebecca,” “Norse Truth,” and “All This (And More)”
COMMENTS:  A great package of melodic punk from the Florida band.  The lyrics rely heavily on the personal and intimate experience of singer/guitarist/songwriter Laura Jane Grace.  But the personal is political for Grace who has become an icon for the transgender community since coming out as a transgender woman in 2012.


ARTIST: A Tribe Called Red
ALBUM: We Are the Halluci Nation
RELEASE DATE: 16 Septemebr 2016
RATING: ****
FAVORITE TRACKS: “R.E.D,” “Sila,” “The Light,” and “Maima Koopi”
COMMENTS: The trio of DJs based in Ottawa combine traditional singing and rythmns with electronic dance sounds in what they call “Electric Pow Wow.”  Their third album is unapologetic in its political stance and call to activism for First Nations cause, but also shows an increasing musical confidence and willing to experiment with styles ranging from R&B to pop to rap to the Inuit throat singing of guest artist Tanya Tagaq.  This is an album at once good for the dance floor as it is for raising consciousness


Beer Review: Harpoon Octoberfest


Beer: Octoberfest
Brewer: Harpoon Brewery
Source: Can
Rating: ** (6.7 of 10)
Comments:

A copper-colored beer that pours out with light carbonation and a thick head.  It offers a toffee aroma and a flavor of roasted grain, caramel, and mild hops on the aftertaste.  The head evaporates swiftly making the beer look flat.  It’s drinkable, inoffensive.  A good beer for a crisp autumn day.

Note: I previously reviewed this beer on draft and had a more favorable opinion.

From the Same Brewer: