Underwhelming Euro 2016 Still Brought Plenty to Look At

I say good riddance, Euro 2016. In terms of the soccer on display, this year’s edition was severely underwhelming. The expansion to 24 teams ensured that there was very little to gain from taking any chances at the group stage, considering that any half-competent team would likely get through to the knock-out stage anyway. At that stage, the grid was so lopsided that the eventual winner, Portugal, was able to go through the tournament without meeting a truly first class team until the final, and without winning a single match before extra time. S0ccer-wise, I’ll mostly remember two things from the tournament: 1) England’s shocking defeat to Iceland, and 2) the never-ending penalty shootout that saw Germany through to the semis at the expense of Italy.

Luckily, there’s no requirement that I switch off my gay for the Euros, and so I had plenty to rest my eyes at even when the matches themselves were less than inspiring. For the obligatory hand-wringing about objectification etc, I refer you to what I wrote in a similar post about the hotness at the 2014 World Cup.

So, who did I like? Let’s see: Three of the most formidable players of the entire competition, France’s Antoine Griezmann, Portuguese demi-god Cristiano Ronaldo and the Welsh MVP Gareth Bale, are all gorgeous. Ronaldo had a huge impact for a player who again was mediocre most of the time, but the two others shone brightly. They also come with the added bonus that I don’t have to beat myself up with self-hatred for worshipping someone like Ronaldo, who, while amazingly beautiful, is a former Man United star. My complicated relationship with Ronaldo goes way back, at least to the days of the Sexiest Males Alive list (on which Gareth Bale, too, made regular appearances).

Among Ronaldo’s teammates my eyes kept wandering back to Cedric Soarez and Rafael Guerreiro, both undersung heroes of Portugal’s largely defensive campaign, and at the other end of the pitch, to Joao Mario. Likewise, in France’s lineup, I looked for Paul Pogba, whose efforts often freed up space for Griezmann, and Antony Martial, although he was hardly central to the host nation’s triumphs.

As for the hottest team overall, it was a fight between Belgium and Germany. A final between these two teams, who arguably had the highest ceiling of any at Euro 2016, would have been a more fitting (and satisfying) experience. Think Michy Batshuayi, Yannick Carrasco, Eden Hazard (who delivered perhaps the single best game performance of the tournament when Belgium routed Hungary in the Round of 16) and Axel Witsel, versus reliably handsome, level-defining World Cup winners like Jerome Boateng, Manuel Neuer and Lukas Podolski (though now admittedly a bit player, at best), mixed in with relative newcomers Julian Draxler, Leroy Sane and Joshua Kimmich. In a close call, it giving it to the Germans.

And, in closing, a shout out to a few more personal favorites: What do you think of Switzerland’s Fabian Schär, Spain’s Alvaro Morata, or Englanders John Stones and Jordan Henderson?




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Clinton ‘Misspeaks’ About the Reagans’ HIV/AIDS Legacy

The only even remotely positive thing that can be said about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s confounding statement praising the late Nancy Reagan for her “low-key advocacy” on HIV/AIDS as first lady, and praising the first couple for having “started a national conversation” about the issue, is that she realized her mistake relatively quickly and retracted the comment.

That said, it is no more than should be expected. To be generous to Clinton, one could perhaps assume that she was merely being overly cautious in trying not to speak ill of a generally well-respected, recently deceased person. I cannot not find any other reason why a statement so far from any recognizable truth emerged from the Clinton campaign, except if she was simply uninformed. That would be even worse.

I can stomach a lot of deliberately vague political rhetoric, but the words Clinton used – “national conversation” and “low-key diplomacy” – are vacuous even by those standards. “Low-key diplomacy” is so imprecise and potentially all-compassing that it’s very lack of success (if we even are to accept that Nancy Reagan ever attempted such a thing) could serve as proof of its existence.  By the time Ronald Reagan was ready to have a “national conversation” about HIV/AIDS, most notably in a speech he gave in 1987, tens of thousands of people had died out of neglect and underfunded health care and medical research, suggesting that his wife’s “low-key diplomacy” was not particularly effective.

I guess I could give Hillary Clinton one more thing: At least she did not claim that her words had been misconstrued, or that she never said what she clearly said, as say, a Donald Trump might have done, turning it into yet another me-against-the-mainstream-media brawl. But the vast distance between the more or less undisputed facts about the Reagans’ record on HIV/AIDS issues and what Clinton said, suggests that using the cliched phrase “I misspoke” papers over a surprising unfamiliarity with how things really were.

This doesn’t make Clinton a foe of the LGBTQ community. When it comes to these issues, she has been better than her husband was. But she, at best, displayed ignorance about a central part of recent queer, heck, central part of U.S. history. Now she has bridges to build and books to read.

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Unlocking The One Direction Catalog, Through Bonus Tracks and “Midnight Memories”

To those of us who have been on this earth for a while, and therefore have observed the slow disintegration of assorted girl- and boybands before, the grief all over the Internet pretty much equalled the writing on the wall when Zayn Malik left One Direction in March 2015. The remaining members insisted they’d go on, while I tried to remember the counterexamples Continue reading

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My Favorite Movies of 2015

I was almost entirely cut off from watching movies in a movie theater for the whole of 2015, for reasons having to do with my health. Today’s multiplatform availability thankfully means that I was able to see a lot of movies regardless, but I won’t rule out that the way I watched them may have impacted my appreciation. I miss the collective experience of moviegoing in a way I didn’t think about it until I was cut off from it. For genre movies in particular – comedies, action flicks, horror – something is inherently lost in the transition to small screen solitude. But even with these logistical hurdles. I managed to see a lot of movies, many of them good. Below are some of my favorites. Continue reading

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David Bowie (1947-2016)

In the movie adaption of Stephen Chbosky’s YA classic The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012), the elusive song Charlie, Sam and Patrick chase was changed from Landslide by Fleetwood Mac to David Bowie’s Heroes. Aside from the fact that I never really bought that these three alternative culture nerds had never heard of Bowie, the choice struck me as a good fit. Not only did the Heroes intro provide a nice bridge from Charlie’s final letter, it also communicated something which hit me hard and immediately last week, when I read that Bowie had died at age 69: In some sense, Bowie made anybody who listened to his music just a little bit cooler. Continue reading

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Learning To Love Hanson’s ‘Anthem’

My relationship with Hanson’s sixth studio album, Anthem, has gone through many phases since it was released two years ago. My love for its predecessor, Shout It Out, had been so complete it couldn’t possibly have measured up to that. (Predictably, it didn’t.) And although I knew and admired Hanson’s willingness to change things up for every new release, I at first ungenerously held it against Anthem that it did not retrace the exact footsteps of Shout It Out. Continue reading

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About Last Night

It happens every Oscar night: The winner in one of the acting categories professes undying love and admiration for his or her nominated colleagues, usually with some reference to the “incredible journey” (or something similar) that they’ve all been through. This year it fell to Julianne Moore when she accepted her award for Still Alice, and while a gracious gesture, it also underscored the nature of the race this late in the game. All involved have basically been shadowing one  another in an endless stream of interviews, promotional tours and oher representational duties for months now, giving ample time to get to know each other, and to get a little dismayed of the entire process. You have to campaign for an Oscar, or else you don’t even get nominated. Continue reading

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