The duo from Berlin, Germany, Africaine 808, mixes global music with dance beats. A simple concept but it works oh so well on tracks like “Ngoni.”
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.
Author: Agnieszka Paletta
Title: Doing Germany
Publication Info: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2013)
This is a book I idly picked up from a Kindle sale, because I enjoyed travelling to Germany. What a surprise that the author declares early on that she never had any interest in visiting German. As a Polish-Canadian, moving back and forth between the two nations, Paletta’s real love is Italy. She only ends up in Germany after meeting the man she calls M in a Cracow nightclub, falling in love, and deciding to move into his Munich apartment for three months. That three months turns to years as the couple are engaged, married, do a lot of house shopping, and have a child. Along the way, Paletta records the cultural adjustments of living in Germany. Her stories are episodic, a bit gossipy in tone, and she seems unusually wed to traditional gender stereotypes. I could offer criticisms, but forget that. Everyone thinks that they can write a book about their travels and life abroad, but few do, so good for her. And Agnieszka seems like a fun person who’d I’d like to hang out with, perhaps to go dancing. So it’s a breezy travel/memoir/life adventure story, and I’ll leave at that.
“I can also relate to keeping one’s roots and traditions alive and not changing your culture just because you’ve changed borders. Canada is great that way – it promotes multiculturalism. Germany is more like the US: once you cross the border, you’re expected to drop everything and mould yourself into a citizen of your new homeland.”
“Unlike on that typical bike, you don’t sit leaning forward; you sit up like a lady, much like in a chair. Therefore, you don’t crane your neck to look up; your head is as God meant it to be – straight on. It makes cycling dignified and comfortable.”
“M tells me it’s impolite to stare and talk to strangers here. You don’t ask how their day is going, how they are feeling. Basically, you don’t intrude because it’s none of your business. So like, they’re not trying to be rude or cold, but polite. They say good morning or God bless you but not how are you – that’s a private matter and none of their business.” (Note from Liam: this is probably why I like Germany. They follow the same rules as Bostonians).
Recommended books: My ‘Dam Life by Sean Condon
Marissa Nadler is a singer-songwriter from Boston, but I’d not heard of her before now. In fact, “Dying Breed” is not a new song, but one she released back in 2007. Luckily, German DJ Stefan Biniak is more up to date on Boston artists and has added the perfect groove to her vocals in this remix.
What musical discoveries have you made recently? Let me know in the comments.
Author: Markus Zusak
Title: The Book Thief
Publication Info: [New York, N.Y.] : Listening Library, 2006.
This novel balances the line between heartwarming and heartbreaking, inevitably falling to the later, but never without giving up hope. Boldly, Zusak has the book narrated by Death who proves to be sympathetic to humanity and tired of the work he’s given in the Second World War. Central to the novel is Liesel, a German girl taken in by foster parents when her father is taken away for being a Communist. Set in a fictional suburb of Munich near Dachau, the novel details day-to-day life in a way that’s familiar to a coming of age tale but also has the overlooming presences of things like the Hitler Youth and nights spent in air raid shelters. Liesel finds comfort in books, and as the title suggests, purloins some books earning her nickname. Her life is also changed when her foster parents the Hubbermanns (already at odds with the Nazi party) repay a promise by hiding a young Jewish man in their basement. Zusak focuses on relationships, test of character, and hope while not dodging the tragedy and atrocity in their midst. It sounds cheesy to describe it but it really is a wonderful, well-written novel.
“They say that war is death’s best friend, but I must offer you a different point of view on that one. To me, war is like the new boss who expects the impossible. He stands over your shoulder repeating one thin, incessantly: ‘Get it done, get it done.’ So you work harder. You get the job done. The boss, however, does not thank you. He asks for more.”
Beer: Hofbräu Oktoberfest
Brewer: Staatliches Hofbräuhaus
Source: 12 oz. bottle
Rating: **** (8.0 of 10)
Comments: A golden, bubbly beer with a thick head, this Oktoberfest special gives of a musty, yeasty and grassy aroma. The taste is a smooth balance of grain and cream which is refreshing and light. Some lacing appears on the glass and the head abides while the beer is quaffed. A nice German beer for the autumn season
ALF was a popular TV show when I was a kid but I never watched because it looked stupid. If only I had seen the show in German, things would have been different.
Lee Miller is a fascinating woman. She was a model and muse to photographers like Man Ray and took up surrealist photography herself among other talents. Following the Normandy invasion, Miller got herself credentialed as a war correspondent. She followed the progress of the American armed forces and the liberation of France, Luxembourg, and Germany for Vogue magazine of all publications (apparently her grim photographs of the war dead ran pages after typical fashion advice articles). Miller’s son Anthony Penrose says that his mother didn’t speak much of the war. In Lee Miller’s War (1992) Penrose collects the dispatches, letters, telegrams, and most importantly the evocative photographs of Lee Miller’s war experience.
Compared to Ernie Pyle, these stories have something of a women’s touch. Granted, Miller was often restricted from the frontlines against her wishes, although on one occasion she found herself in the heart of battle. More typically Miller is left to cover the fashion of Paris and how Parisians “dressed up” as an act of defiance against the occupying Germans. There’s even photos and descriptions of Paris’ first fashion show post-occupation. Miller also hobnobs with celebrities of the time like Picasso, Cocteau, and Collette which is interesting in that I never stopped to think that these well known people lived under German occupation. A similar novelty is the liberation of Luxembourg. It’s rare to hear about the war from the point of view of Luxembourg and its people.
Don’t be misunderstood though. Lee Miller confronts the war in all it’s grim and gritty nature. Her visceral distaste for the German POW’s and civilians lends an immediacy to the war correspondence. Her photos of liberated concentration camps capture all the horror while lending dignity to the survivors. She also ended up staying in Hitler’s Munich apartment where she was famously photographed in the bathtub.
Author: Miller, Lee, 1907-1977.
Title: Lee Miller’s war : photographer and correspondent with the Allies in Europe, 1944-45 / foreword by David E. Scherman ; edited by Antony Penrose.
Publication: Info. Boston : Little, Brown, c1992.
Edition: 1st North American ed.
Description: 208 p. : ill. ; 29 cm.
Nobel Prize Laureate Heinrich Böll‘s novel Billiards at Half-Past Nine represents Germany for Around the World for a Good Book. The story focuses on three generations of a family of architects set on one day in 1958, but encompassing flashbacks to life during two World Wars and living under Kaiser, Fuhrer, and Democracy. The three central characters are Richard Faehmel, his son Robert Faehmel, and grandson Joseph Faehmel. All three are tied to St. Anthony Abbey which is outside of the the city of Cologne where the family lives. Richard completed the Abbey in 1908, Robert as a demolition expert destroyed the abbey under orders in the waning days of the war, and Joseph contributed to its reconstruction in 1958. Through the novel each man’s relationship to the Abbey is revealed in ways that defy expectations – Richard is indifferent to the destruction of mere buildings, Robert more complicit in the Abbey’s destruction because he believed the monks collaborated with the Nazis, and Joseph horrified to learn that his father destroyed his grandfather’s work. The novel’s title refers to Roberts attempts to make order in his life with a rigid schedule that includes shooting billiards at the local hotel each morning from 9:30-11.
Billiards at Half-Past Nine is a complex novel with narration rotating from chapter to chapter offering perspectives of different family members, work colleagues and friends of the family. The time-scale and place are also affected by frequent flashbacks and memories to different places and times. All this is woven together well to show different perspectives on people and events in the novel.
Religious overtones are strong in this novel. The imagery of the lamb, referring to meek or sacrificial characters is used often. The lamb also comes up in allusion to Biblical passages such as “Feed my lambs” and “Lamb of God.” Meanwhile, those drawn to Nazism are described as taking the “Host of the Beast” and their actions are akin to Satan worship. Interestingly enough, while there presence is felt throughout the novel, the words “Nazi” and “Hitler” never appear in the text.
This is an excellent book, probably worth puzzling through again to get a better sense of the German zeitgeist in the aftermath of World War II. There are a lot of interesting details about place and time. I enjoyed reading about German school boys playing rounders (a game similar to baseball) in the 1930’s and one character’s ride on the Cologne streetcars whose routes and schedules haven’t changed over decades of turmoil.
I found these two discussion guides useful in sorting out the characters and chapters:
“Politeness is really the most effective form of contempt,” he thought.
New York: McGraw Hill (1962)