Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Favourite posts from the 3rd quarter of 2010

I've fallen a little behind schedule again on these roundups of last year's highlights. I usually aim to get them out only 12 months or so after the end of the period covered, but it's now over 14 months on - oh dear.

Pick of the Archives:
Favourite Posts, July-September 2010

1)  Jumpers for goalposts  -  3rd July 2010
The approaching climax of the World Cup makes me nostalgic for my '70s childhood spent watching football on the BBC; and comedy genius Paul Whitehouse perfectly captures that feeling with his 'Ron Manager' character.

2)  What's in a (footballer's) name?  -  9th July 2010
Some amusing names among the Chilean players in the World Cup remind me of a couple of crude accidental puns that have cropped up in the field of sports commentary.

3)  If I ruled the world...  -  11th July 2010
And, of course, I had to greet the World Cup Final by picking my 'team of the tournament'.

Daisy is the stage name and alter ego of a delightful singer-songwriter called Christine Laskowski, who lived in Beijing for a couple of years but has left us now. Elevating her to the ranks of my Fantasy Girlfriends provided an excuse to plug her website and the CD All That Glisters, just released by her bluegrass band The Redbucks.

5)  Hip?  -  23rd July 2007
In a very short post - primarily intended to plug a favourite website I'd just discovered, cartoonist Hugh McLeod's Gaping Void - I managed to ruminate on the distinction between 'hip' and 'cool', reminisce about The Fonz, and quote a favourite line from The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

6)  Between the lines  -  24th July 2010
An impassioned post about the unlawful detention of my artist friend, Wu Yuren. (He was finally released on 2nd April this year, after 10 months in prison.)

7)  Makeover  -  28th July 2010
Contemplating shaving my head, I reflect on the first time I did so, a dozen years earlier.

8)  Proclaiming it 'a digging instrument'  -  29th July 2010
My very negative review of Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner leads me to wonder morosely what's becoming of literary taste in the modern world.

9)  Another piece of Friday frivolity  -  30th July 2010
A favourite in my occasional series of cartoon puns, most of them, like this one, raided from Viz magazine's repository of 'Crap Jokes'. (Two more great ones here and here!)

10)  A China-inspired Sunday poem  -  1st August 2010
Billy Collins shares my delight in the poets of the Tang and Song dynasties.

11)  Democracy isn't everything  -  7th August 2010
But it is a hell of a start! For my latest 'List of the Month', I consider some of the other elements of an advanced society that China is sadly lacking.

12)  Beijing Taxi  -  10th August 2010
My review of this documentary about taxi drivers leads to some broader musing on the shortcomings of Chinese documentary-making.

13)  The Beijing I miss  -  23rd August 2010
An afternoon's walk restores some of my enthusiasm for living in this city.

14)  Who are you calling 'strange'?  -  25th August 2010
I am amused to discover that some social psychologists have coined the acronym WEIRD to remind themselves how unrepresentative their typical experimental subjects are of the wider human race.

15)  A memory fragment  -  26th August 2010
A poignant recollection of the period of my thwarted infatuation with a lady I dubbed 'Madame X'.

16)  Short Animation Festival  -  28th August 2010
For my end-of-the-month Film List, I offer a selection of great animated shorts.

17)  How not to do it, in Powerpoint  -  1st September 2010
Some tips from a recent training session on giving presentations.

18)  Elements of Englishness  -  4th September 2010
Another offshoot of my business training work: an attempt to summarise the 'national character' of the people of the land of my birth.  

19)  Desert song  -  5th September 2010
I have an uncannily vivid dream - apparently set in a futuristic version of Amman, Jordan. I wonder if this might be a 'cosmic hint' that I should consider moving there.

20)  Things Word won't do for you  -  6th September 2010
A suggestion for a new feature I would like to see added to Microsoft's Word program - to make it a bit more fun.

21)  Don't underestimate the Daily Llama  -  7th September 2010
Two funny pictures: a baby llama playing rugby.... and Jesus playing gridiron football!

22)  A familiar story?  -  11th September 2010
Another of my dream stories (a scene you might recognise).

-  12th September 2010
One of my longer and more thoughtful posts (provoked by a British Council lecture I attended, given by Dr Chris Hall, most of which I'd found myself rather violently in disagreement with; I had meant to return to another topic he touched on - 'Chinese English' - but haven't got around to it yet).

24)  An e-commerce idea for China  -  16th September 2010
How about a website where you can haggle over the price? Why has no-one done it yet??

25)  My Fantasy Girlfriend - Rachel Manija Brown  -  18th September 2010
This month's pick is a very amusing writer, who I discovered in a particularly serendipitous way.

26)  The most important lesson of The Tank Man  -  20th September 2010
A long gripe about this country's terrible driving standards, and the hazards of trying to cross the road.

27)  You are old, Uncle Wang  -  22nd September 2010
I have a particularly good Beijing taxi experience - with one of the city's most venerable drivers. This reminds me of my longstanding 'collecting box' post for examples of uncommonly low taxi driver registration numbers.

28)  Strange foods  -  24th September 2010
Another amusing picture post. Garlic-flavoured ice cream, anyone?

29)  China snapshots  -  28th September 2010
I happened to notice quite a lot of odd and quirky things (more than usual!) about my adopted homeland in the previous week or two.

30)  Futility  -  30th September 2010
I reminisce about my experience of playing the strategy game Risk, and in particular about the brutal 'Ontario Incident' - which very nearly ended one of my closest friendships.


Anonymous said...

So glad you did this. I wanted to desperately comment further on your World Cup team. The link isn't working to refresh my memory, but I still have a pretty clear recollection.

I let it drop after you made a valid argument for disavowing my placement of Xavi in the midfield, but......

Kaka???? As a new commenter to Froogville I didn't quite feel up to pressing this issue, but for some reason it has occurred to me often and I always hoped it would be somehow revisited.

KAKA???? You had friggin Kaka on the all World Cup team but not (going by memory here) Muller? Brazil dudded out in the Quarter Finals without Kaka doing a fucking thing and you had him on your All Cup team???

Muller and Xavi both deserved a place ahead of Kaka. Landon fucking Donovan should have been on there ahead of Kaka.

Not many blunders from you Froog, and there are even less (any?) you will ever admit too, but Kaka? please.

Froog said...

In subsequent comments, I did consider both Muller (just a youngster, and not quite his role) and Donovan (had a brilliant tournament, but I wondered if would have been quite so impressive against the likes of Germany and Spain). I probably should have given some thought to Iniesta as well. But at the end of the day, I thought Messi was the only other real contender for that spot - he didn't have a great tournament either, by his stellar standards; and it's not his best position (which is why he didn't have a great tournament).

Kaka was superb in all the matches I saw (and I think I saw all of Brazil's); he only 'disappointed' by the standards unfairly imposed on Brazil and on Brazil's star player. He had a 'bad tournament' because he didn't win it for them single-handed?!

Anonymous said...

For positional reasons I'll drop Xavi. Kaka, Donovan, and Muller are all attacking Forwards who can and do play all along the line.

Going by statistics alone:

Kaka had 3 assists, 0 goals, 0 Man of the Match awards.

Donovan had 3 goals (clutch goals!), 0 assists, and 2 Man of the Match awards.

Muller had 5 goals, 3 assists, and 2 Man of the Match awards.

Ok, Kaka had 3 assists and I agree he played well (superb? come now) , so I was being a bit harsh. He clearly did not have the same caliber of tournament that Donovan and Muller had.

I would comfortably wager that the only All Cup Teams that have Kaka in the starting lineup reside in either Brazil or a sole apartment in Beijing.

Froog said...


But stats are bollocks. Especially for football.

'Man of the Match' awards are especially bollocks (so often go to the guy who does one important thing, rather than the guy who makes the whole game tick - how many did Xavi win?).

And it is rather easier to win 'Man of the Match' playing for the US than for Brazil.

Anonymous said...

I was under the impression that you actually watched the World Cup fixtures and saw what Landon did to earn those Man of the Match honors.

I say this with affection.

You are absolutely positively fucking hopeless.

Froog said...

How many outstanding players who might have made match-winning contributions did the US have?

Keeper or goalscorer are often likely to get the MoM nod - but basically Landon was your only 'world class' player.

With Brazil, the keeper and perhaps the central defenders might not attract much notice, but the other 8 are all egregiously talented, eye-catching, potential game-turners. And so are most of the subs.

But, in general, particularly in a tight game, it will be the goal scorer who picks up the MoM award. Muller, it would seem, got more of those than Schweinstegger or Lahm. I'd bet that David Villa won more than Xavi.


Froog said...

Also, Brazil drew a much tougher group than the US; so there were more players on the opposing teams in likely contention for MoM honours.

If Landon played for Brazil, he probably would not have won any MoM awards. And people would doubtless have bitched about what a "disappointing" tournament he'd had.

Anonymous said...

The bottom line is Kaka has no business being on any All Tournament Team lists from the 2010 World Cup.

I have just looked at several All Tournament lists from a variety of publications and I won't bother linking any because not one of them had Kaka on them. One list even went so far as to list Subs, Rest of Team, and Honourable mention without Kaka being mentioned anywhere.

Schweinsteiger and Sneijder are solidly on the list of Midfielders and not really up for debate. The consensus seems to be that Xavi and Iniesta are there as well. Which one do you pull for Kaka?

Even if you make a positional argument and want to pull Iniesta or Xavi, Muller clearly belongs there ahead of Kaka.

You've exhausted me. Based upon our conversation in this and the two other most recent threads, I can only conclude that the Emperor will continue to pretend his new clothes are fit for a king rather than admit his bum is showing.

Froog said...

It wasn't anybody else's list. It was my list.

Kaka is a great player, and played some exceptional football the last World Cup. He didn't make those other 'best of' lists because of his unjust suspension, and the fact that Brazil didn't make it all the way to the final as expected - not on a proper appraisal of how well he played in the games he played in.

Muller is also a great player, but not - yet - in the same league. He gets the nod in so many of these lists because of the novelty factor - it's exciting to recognise an emerging talent, but also tempting to overestimate one.

Iniesta and Messi are really the only other candidates for that position in my tactical vision. I might well have given it to Iniesta, on the basis of his solid performances throughout the whole tournament. But I admit to having become a bit biased against the Spaniards: they were very disappointing early on, I found some of Del Bosque's tactical choices perverse, and they were guilty of a lot of play-acting. I had picked them - bet on them - to win the tournament from the outset, but they rather alienated my sympathies with the way they played. It was a pity the final matched them against the Dutch, whose sportsmanship was even worse. I would much have preferred to see Germany and Brazil or Uruguay make it through.

I imagine all those other lists chose Pique as a centreback (my major regret in my choices), or Van Bronckhorst at leftback, or Casillas in goal. I don't suppose anyone picked the Nigerian keeper.

I was trying to get out of an obvious rut, to be a little unexpected or provocative. If you disagree - well, that's the point: to stimulate a debate. There's no need to get so arsey about it.

There is no RIGHT answer. How do you choose between Xavi and Sneijder, or between Iniesta and Forlan? You can't, it's impossible. But the deliberation on it can be diverting.

Anonymous said...

He didn't make those other lists because he didn't play exceptional, he played average, and I'm being generous. I really have to wonder how much of the games you watched.

What was it that impressed you? The name Kaka on the back of his jersey?

His passes were inaccurate and he didn't finish his opportunities.

A Tournament Team is based on how well they played at the tournament, not on how big their reputation is.

There may be no right answer and I like a divergent exercise, but this has been an exercise in futility,

Froog said...

Citing a website called 'Bleacher Report' immediately invites ridicule. Obviously American ('bleacher' is exclusively American English, I believe), and Americans - by and large - no squat about 'soccer'.

That reporter includes half of the English team (which is an odd bias, even if the selections might be justified), doesn't give explanations for any of the picks, and can't even spell Rooney.

What's more, he fails to mention Franck Ribery, who was surely the most conspicuous 'no show' of the World Cup.

But he throws in Cristiano Ronaldo (who played pretty well) and Lionel Messi (who did his best played out of position).

A pointless reference, I'm afraid.

Froog said...

'Failed to excel' is not FAILED, anyway.

My point here - one of them - is that players like Kaka get judged by a different standard. Brazil are expected to WIN every time; and their star player is expected to do it for them singlehanded, if the rest of the team is misfiring.

The US is a second or third rate team, who were happy to make it out of the group stage. They had only one star player, rather than a whole team of stars; and he played very well - so, naturally, he garnered a lot of attention.

Is Landon Donovan a better player than Kaka? No. Did he play better than Kaka in that World Cup? Well, maybe. But if you could divorce it from the context of the team they played in, and the teams they played against, and the expectations people had of them, and just look at the skill they displayed individually - there wouldn't be much in it.

Kaka gets vilified if he doesn't score a goal. Ridiculous. Frankly, yes I would take Kaka on a bad day over Donovan or Muller on a good one. But I honestly don't think he had such a bad tournament. Certainly not compared to Messi, who was miserably subdued by Maradona's bizarre tactics. Or Ronaldo, who played well, but nowhere near his peak. Or Van Persie, who had completely forgotten where the goal was. Or Torres and Rooney, who were so awful they were liabilities to their teams.

The argument against Kaka's inclusion, I feel, is that he didn't play enough (missing a third of a game to a ridiculous sending off, suffering a one-match suspension, and then dropping out at the quarters), rather than that he's not a good player, or he didn't play well.

Froog said...

And you rather ignored most of the points I made in response to you, HF, so preoccupied were you with your hatred of Kaka.

It's disappointing to me that you feel this compulsion to refer to other people's opinions all the time to try to justify your own (or to disparage mine). Why can't you just stand by your own judgment?

Invoking statistics is a particularly unimpressive ploy. They work quite well with the American sports, where there are many more metrics available, and the regimented patterns of play create obvious 'tipping points'. 'Pass completion' percentages are a pretty good reflection of a quarterback's performance in American Football, but they're much less revealing in our game. (Actually, this is partly true of the gridiron game as well, but that has few opportunities for a short and easy pass. In general, a player with a very high pass completion percentage in football is playing a lot of short balls deep in midfield. There might be a lot of value in that, but... if you're attempting more ambitious passes, playing the ball long, or trying to thread it through into the penalty area through a packed defence... then a lot of them are going to get picked off. Kaka had a lot of incomplete passes? Boo-hoo! I bet Xavi, Iniesta, and Forlan did too. But they created goal-scoring opportunities with some of the ones that got through. Stats can't gauge that kind of impact very well.)

Froog said...

'no' for 'know'?! Agh, I haven't been getting enough sleep!

Froog said...

And another thing - you say Kaka was credited with three assists? So, he created three goals - and he only played three complete games! If you must make statistics your god, that's surely pretty impressive.

And I suspect, in fact, that this stat under-represents his contribution. I think he had a hand in almost every goal Brazil scored.

'Assist' isn't a recognised term in football, and it's only in the last decade or so that people have started to use it. I don't know that there's any standard definition. It usually seems to be applied only to the final pass leading to a goal, or perhaps to the final and/or penultimate pass.

So, a good crosser of the ball racks up a lot of 'assists'. But does the guy who plays the pass that releases the winger into space behind the fullback? And an industrious central midfielder often doesn't get much recognition under this accolade, even though he may be constantly regaining possession and playing key passes early on in scoring moves.

Anonymous said...

My hatred of Kaka?

lol, he is one of my favorite players, I think he's brilliant, or rather was before he became riddled with injuries which explains his poor World Cup performance where he missed quite a few shots and was easily dispossessed of the ball by defenders during his 'exceptional'
3 game run.

Don't fancy an American's opinion, how about a European one:

They were slightly kinder to Kaka, saying he barely escaped being put on the list. I rather liked one of the comments to the article, "Kaka certainly lived up to his name".

I find it useful to use outside opinion and data such as statistics to actually back up my arguments rather than blindly sticking to them because 'I say so'.

I'm disappointed as well. I find it disappointing that you won't consider stats, outside opinion, American opinion, or pretty much anything outside of your own opinion.

I guess I'll bow out of the conversation disappointed.

Froog said...

Well, you haven't addressed my points that - for football - stats (particularly MoM awards) are mostly pretty useless.

And casting endlessly around the Internet for some hack writer's flippant summaries of the tournament doesn't reinforce your view at all; it tends to trivialise it.

I don't recall Kaka having any bad misses; but it is 18 months ago. But I didn't recall him having any at the time, and I did watch all the games (though, admittedly, usually late at night, on a tiny screen, without the benefit of English commentary). I was perhaps guilty of some slight over-compensation, in that I felt both he and Brazil were unlucky not to go further, and unfairly criticized by much of the press as a result. He may have "disappointed" slightly by his own extraordinary standards, but he didn't play poorly (three - more than three! - 'assists' in three-and-a-half games!!).

Moreover, he's pretty much an automatic choice in my chosen tactical scheme. There isn't really anyone else who fits into that niche of the creative midfielder who plays in a very advanced role just behind the strikers. Iniesta could play that role, but didn't really. Messi did, but it didn't at all suit him. Gerrard can, but mostly doesn't for England - and had a rather subdued tournament. It's not quite Muller's style, either. Basically, you're left with Landon Donovan as the only alternative; and, well as he played, I said at the time that I just don't see him having that extra level of class to be able to impose himself against the very top sides as he did against a miserably below-par England.

Of course, my opinion is 'because I say so'. That's all opinions are. Provided everyone remains duly aware of the level of subjectivity and fallibility implicit in that, there's nothing wrong with it. In fact, it's a much stronger basis of argument than 'because someone else said so.'

Froog said...

Also, while I appreciate that you are a more knowledgeable and enthusiastic follower of the game than most of your countrymen, you are probably much less familiar with it than me and most of my countrymen.

Have you ever played the game? Seen a match live? Watched from the touchline? Refereed? Coached? Has it been one of the dominant enthusiasms of your life since you were old enough to walk? Have you watched half of all the World Cup and European Championship games in the last 40 years?

I wouldn't be so strident in venturing an opinion on American football. But football is something I really know about.

Anonymous said...

I'll give you credit for knowing how to push my buttons. I knew it would be a mistake to revisit this tonight.

"stats (particularly MoM awards) are mostly pretty useless."

Then why do they bother keeping track and discussing them?

"casting endlessly around the Internet for some hack writer's flippant summaries of the tournament doesn't reinforce your view"

Well there certainly aren't any summaries that reinforce your view. Rather convenient that you dismiss everything that contradicts your point of view which seems to be shared only by you.

"I don't recall Kaka having any bad misses"

Dear God man, Kaka had one of the most talked about misses of the tournament.

"I was perhaps guilty of some slight over-compensation"

I would have settled for that ages ago.

"three - more than three! - 'assists' in three-and-a-half games!!"

I though stats were shit?

"There isn't really anyone else who fits into that niche of the creative midfielder who plays in a very advanced role just behind the strikers"

You just described Muller's WC role to a T!

"Have you ever played the game? Seen a match live? Watched from the touchline? Refereed? Coached? Has it been one of the dominant enthusiasms of your life since you were old enough to walk? Have you watched half of all the World Cup and European Championship games in the last 40 years?"

Yes, yes, yes, yes, no, no. Your predigree doesn't mean much if your eyes aren't open. Your mind clearly is not.

Ok, no really, I think I'm done.

Froog said...

Muller was more of the goal poacher, breaking fast into the box to take scoring chances himself, not a creator. That role was more Ozil's (also in contention, although he played a bit more on the right side than through the middle).

If you want to use stats, I'll happily use them against you! And 'assist' stats are one of the more useful metrics. My gripe with them is that their criteria are uncertain and not very incisive, and they give an incomplete picture of someone's contribution. But sure, yes, if you help to set up a goal, that's a significant thing.

Who is this 'they' who go on about MoM awards and how telling they are?! Twats like that 'Bleacher Report' blogger?? I mean, really, if you want to bolster your argument by citing an 'expert' opinion, you need to dig up something by a decent football writer like Brian Glanville or Patrick Barclay (neither of whom, as far as I recall, said anything very negative about Kaka while the tournament was on). You just make yourself look ridiculous citing crap like that.

"Most talked about miss of the World Cup"? Talked about by whom? You see - this may be where your prejudice on this point comes from (I know what mine are and where they come from): too much exposure to biased media. Kaka misses one chance. Doesn't seem like such a big deal to me. I carry on enjoying the positive aspects of his performance. I never see the supposed 'blunder' again. If it gets endlessly shown on TV lowlights (and mocked by not terribly knowledgeable American sports presenters?), then of course it's going to assume much greater importance in your perception of what sort of tournament he had.

It's hard enough to do these sorts of retrospective assessments when it's all still fresh in the memory. 18 months on, it's quite pointless.

Christ knows why you're getting so crazy obsessive about it now.

If you really wanted to revisit this, you'd have to watch all the Brazil games again. I think, if you did that, without the undue influence of all the blather surrounding the games during the original tournament, you might appreciate that Kaka didn't play so badly after all.

I trust my perceptions at the time. I did watch most of the games very closely, and felt pretty confident that the claims of Messi, Muller, Iniesta, and Donovan - which I did consider in the comments - were insufficiently compelling. Kaka is - was then - one of the best 2 or 3 players in the world. Even at well below his best - and I don't think he was that far below his best - he's a class above than any of those guys.

Froog said...

Moreover, having just checked back on the original post, I note that you didn't challenge my inclusion of Kaka at the time - although you did challenge my omission of Messi and Xavi, who arguably might have been considered for his spot in the formation.

You've only subsequently developed this passionate conviction that he had such a rubbish tournament???

Froog said...

Well, Kaka's not a class above Messi, of course - but Messi did have a "disappointing" tournament.

Anonymous said...

Peter Barclay

"Ronaldo, Kaka, Torres all spectacularly living down to expectations"

Continue talking straight out of your backside.

I've certainly learned one thing from all this, you're not an asexualismo (whatever the fuck that is) by choice.

Froog said...

Thought I'd throw you a bone on that one.

Although Barclay doesn't expand on the observation there, does he?

And lumping Ronaldo and Kaka in with the spectacularly awful Torres is clearly unfair.

The key thing here - as I've noted a number of times - is "expectations". Kaka "disappointed" against the expectation that he was going to lift the trophy and be clearly the player of the tournament. Against the expectation that he would be his team's best player and almost lead them to the semis, he did not.

Our difference of opinion here is simple: you think he played "average"; I think he played rather better than that, and that his "average" is still better than almost anyone else's best.

You haven't made much of a case for anybody else to replace him. You've kept insisting that he was rubbish - which is not something that you (or anyone else; Barclay doesn't go that far) said at the time.

What I take issue with is not your view per se, but the flawed or flimsy arguments you use in support of it, and the quite unnecessary aggression - rudeness - with which you assert them.

I had thought you were better than this; but your knee-jerk resort to arid statistics is suggestive of a congenital American inability to distinguish coccyx from ulna when it comes to football.

Frankly, you have been coming off like a complete twat in this thread, and I wish you'd go away.

Anonymous said...

I am going away, but I didn't really want to go away on such a sour note.

I've spent a lot of time reading and commenting here and have enjoyed many (clearly not all) of our conversations and a lot of your observations.

Despite the incedibly sour turn this has taken (in my opinion from both of us), I do wish the best for you in the future. Cheers.

Froog said...

HF, if you go back and re-read your contributions here - and in other recent threads - in a more dispassionate moment, I hope you will start to realise how extraordinarily abrasive you have been of late.

It is inevitable that I will start to respond in kind after several days of sustained incivility - although I did try to confine myself to gentle teasing for as long as possible.

I am genuinely concerned for your current state of emotional health. You really seem to have been taking some kind of crazy pill.

What kind of World Cup Kaka had has been a dead issue for a year.

If you insist on reviving that topic when there's no chance that anyone any longer has a detailed recollection of the games - you're a jerk.

I did consider all the points you raised very carefully at the time.

If you don't appreciate how thoughtfully my selection was made - you're a jerk.

I'm an extremely bright guy. I'm a deeply analytical thinker. I'm very knowledgeable and perceptive about football.

If you can't respect the opinion of someone like that (no-one demands you agree with it) - you're a jerk.

If you feel compelled to try to browbeat someone into changing their mind on such a trivial issue so long after the event ("Oh man, what a blunder! What was I thinking?") - you're a jerk.

And to couch all of that in language which is so extremely hostile, needling, disrespectful, often downright abusive - well, you have been a complete jerk here.

I don't know what's come over you. And I hope you get over it. A dose of self-awareness is needed.

I hope you might return one day - when you've had the bug removed from your ass and have remembered how to discourse with some politeness.