Amélie Nothomb was born in Japan to Belgian parents, lives in Paris, and writes about the United States’ war in Iraq. That’s the kind of worldliness I like for an Around the World for a Good Book selection. Nothomb creates a fictional version of herself in this novel (how true-to-life, I do not know) in which she carries on a correspondence with an American soldier in Iraq, Melvin Mapple. The soldier is aware that Nothomb (the fictional one, at least) responds to letters from her readers and that she may be a sympathetic voice. Over the course of the letters, Mapple reveals that he and other soldiers react to the war through eating and enormous weight gain. Mapple sees it as a means of protest, forcing the military to pay for food and increasingly larger clothing. As the correspondence continues, the absurdity increases so that Mapple’s obesity is treated as an artistic statement. Nothomb creates in herself an unsympathetic sounding board for the pathetic and grotesque Mapple. The book works well both as a satire of American foreign policy and obesity problem, but also is a gripping read with a number of interesting twists. On a literary level it works with the ideas of language and reality.
After an exciting round of group play, the knock-out rounds for the 2014 World Cup begin today. Below I’ve listed the teams I’m rooting for and the teams I expect to win (not always the same) for each game.
28 June 2014
Brazil vs. Chile
This is a tough call. I have a soft spot for Chile and they acquitted themselves well in group play, but I’ve always liked Brazil and it would be tragic if the host nation exited the tournament this early (especially after having to endure all the corporate, government, and FIFA corruption). That being said, I expect Brazil will have no problem winning this game and probably advance at least to the semifinals.
Supporting: Brazil Prediction: Brazil
Colombia vs. Uruguay
Colombia is one of the most exciting teams in the tournament with the most feverish fans. Uruguay did well in group play, but aren’t going to go far without their bitey star Luis Suarez. Colombia is an easy team to support and pick for the win.
Supporting: Colombia Prediction: Colombia
It’s interesting that four of the five remaining South American teams are essentially playing for one semifinal spot. I expect that Brazil will advance from this group of four, but the Brazil versus Colombia quarterfinal has the potential to be an exciting match.
29 June 2014
Netherlands vs. Mexico
Mexico is our biggest rival, but I’ve been swayed to their side this World Cup for several reasons: CONCACAF regional pride, the performance of goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, the exburance of coach Miguel Herrera, and their exciting style of play in a tough group. I adopted the Netherlands in 2010 as my team to support after the US elimination (mainly because I had just visited Amsterdam that year), but the karate chop performance of the final kind of took the bloom off that rose. Still, the Netherlands look like a dominant side that may advance all the way to the final again, and will be hard for Mexico to beat.
Supporting: Mexico Prediction: Netherlands
Costa Rica vs. Greece
Costa Rica’s team is the surprise of the tournament, giant-killers in what should’ve been the toughest group. It’s hard not to like Los Ticos. Greece are also surprise members of the final 16. However, they haven’t shown a lot of skill in the group stage. I expect another Costa Rica win.
Supporting: Costa Rica Prediction: Costa Rica
An all CONCACAF quarterfinal would be a thrilling thing, but I expect that the Netherlands will progress to the semifinals from this group of four.
30 June 2014
France vs. Nigeria
I tend to root for the underdogs, so I have to favor Nigeria here, but France is looking like one of the top teams in the tournament, so I don’t have much hope for the African side.
Supporting: Nigeria Prediction: France
Germany vs. Algeria
Algeria is the other surviving African team who’ve drawn tough European competition in Germany. I’ll root for Algeria, but expect Germany to make it at least to the semifinal.
Supporting: Algeria Prediction: Germany
There’s an opportunity for an all-African quarterfinal coming out this group of four, but it’s more likely that European neighbors Germany and France will meet to decide a spot in the final four.
1 July 2014
Argentina vs. Switzerland
I’ve not been impressed by Argentina who won a weak group by basically holding out for a Lionel Messi wondergoal. On the other hand, Argentina has enough talent that should be able to advance as far as the semifinal without breaking much of a sweat. I haven’t got much of a sense of Switzerland, but I’ll be rooting for them just so that USA would have a more potentially beatable side in the quarterfinal, should it come to that.
Supporting: Switzerland Prediction: Argentina
Belgium vs. United States
Sure, Belgium is a dark horse to win the World Cup, and sure they won all three of their group matches. Sure, the United States has struggled and only just made it out of group play. But Belgium played in one of the weakest groups, while the United States faced down three challenging opponents without ever throwing in the towel. I believe that we will win.
Supporting: United States Prediction: United States
While I think that the United States can make it to the quarterfinal, Argentina is the prohibitive favorite of this group of four. Still, Iran held Argentina scoreless for 90 minutes, so maybe someone can pull of a miracle win.
Here are a few beers I sampled on our recent travels in Amsterdam (not counting the six-pack of Grolsch I bought at the Albert Heijn store).
Beer: Hertog Jan Pils
Brewer: Hertog Jan Brouwerij
Rating: ** (6.7 of 10)
Comments: A bright gold beer with a must pilsener aroma and a crisp, dry taste. Foamy lace lines the glass. A nice, drinkable beer.
Beer: Wieckse Witte
Brewer: De Ridder Brewery
Rating: ** (6.3 of 10)
Comments: This is a cloudy, blond beer with a citrusy aroma and a dry, fruity taste. The head evaporated quickly and did not leave much lacing. Not my favorite style of beer, but not bad.
Beer: Budels Pils
Brewer: Budelse Brouwerij B.V.
Rating: * (5.8 of 10)
Comments: “Just Beer,” a pilsener with a foamy, flat, golden appearance and a dry, grainy flavor. The beer retains its carbonation and leaves a light lacing on the glass. An OK, everyday beer.
Beer: Hertog Jan Springbier
Brewer: Hertog Jan Brouwerij
Rating: *** (7.0 of 10)
Comments: A deep amber beer with a fluffy head. The scent is musty, like cannabis, or perhaps the scent pervades everything here? Sweet & malty with fruity highlights. Sporadic lacing lines the glass and the head disappears quickly. A decent beer for the season.