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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The Year in Norwegian Cinema

I watch an unhealthy amount of movies every year, but despite a very manageable total annual output – 20-25 films – I’m not always fully updated on Norwegian cinema. The quality of our local movie industry has improved vastly over the last 10-15 years, both in terms of acting, writing, directing, international acclaim and even when it comes to diversity of genres and the experiences depicted. Continue reading

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“Maybe all this history has taught me some things”

I’m not the kind of person who follows through on things. I’m much better at complaining about the many opportunities I never took, the projects I never fully committed myself to, the blog posts I never wrote. This year, however, I actually achieved a very long-standing goal of mine. After several years of setbacks due to bad health and more or less chronic loss of self-esteem, I can now call myself a master of the humanities (in history). I wrote my masters thesis on the recent historiography of the British Labour Party (“All that is solid melts into Blair? A historiographical study of New Labour”), completing a project I started all the way back in 2008 (!). If you wanna geek out about Labour’s organizational reforms in the 1980s or the rise of  New Labour in the 1990s, have a go in the comment section.

In the grand scheme of things, one masters thesis is not much. The amount of insightful writing and research on this part of the Labour Party’s history is formidable, and I hold no illusions of my own breaking much new ground. The great thing about history as an academic discipline, however, is that the slow and steady accumulation of new knowledge and continuously putting accepted truths to the test in order to judge their validity and assess how the history has been shaped and told, is an integral part of the field. In that sense, I feel that I have made a contribution, if only a minor one. I would have included a link to my thesis, were it not for the fact that, when I decided back in 2008, I opted to write it in Norwegian. I didn’t feel that I mastered English well enough to capture the necessary nuances of academic discourse, and perhaps I still don’t. On the other hand, by writing in Norwegian, I hope that I can provide some insight into the intricacies of British politics to the few Norwegians who stumble upon it in the university archives and prefer to read their first language.

Immediately after I submitted my thesis, I was deeply unsure about how good it was. I knew it was thorough for a masters thesis, with a comprehensive bibliography and an unusually broad and close reading of several older and never classics in the field of Labour Party history. My thesis adviser assured me that she thought it was both well-written and well-researched, but I was nevertheless prepared for the possibility that it could fail the standard criteria of how a historiography thesis is supposed to be. And I was right to do so. When the time came for me to make an oral presentation and defend my conclusions, I was given a grade that I have to admit I was a little disappointed by. The process itself was a little frustrating, too: I think I did reasonably well on my oral exam, and we had a productive discussion about what constitutes a proper historiographical thesis, but there were a lot of things about my thesis that I would have liked to discuss that we simply didn’t have time to delve into. A paradoxical thing is that although I think I made a reasonable defense of my overall approach to the subject and its methodology, I knew what I’d written well enough to point out weaknesses in my own conclusions that could have been probed further, even though it might have made my conclusions slightly less convincing.

The end of the year is supposed to be a time for humility and introspection, but I realize that what I’ve written so far may come of as humble-bragging, at best. But believe me, it’s not the thesis I’m most proud of (if I  had chance to do it over again, I probably would have focused on some different books, just to name one possible flaw); it’s the fact that I finished it at all. My health has been unpredictable, if not to say just plain bad for the last several years, which has set me back again and again. In addition, I am relentlessly critical of my own work. Even now, when I have a stamp of respectable academic approval on this work, I still haven’t dared to re-read it. One thing is that I’m so damn tired of the subject, but I’m also afraid I might discover even more glaring flaws than the ones I already know of.

As for the rest of 2014, it’s hard to say whether I’ve done my best to be a good, productive person. I have a loving and understanding family that’s done more than its share to help and support me when my health has failed me, but in dark moments I can’t escape the feeling that I demand too much from them, or that I depend on them too much. These thoughts aren’t necessarily rational, seeing as I can’t really do much to change my situation (some of my problems have been with me since I was born), but they’re there nonetheless.

One thing I do plan to change in the coming year, though, is my productivity as a writer. Compared to most previous years, I’ve been neglecting this blog in 2014. I hope to rectify that, starting in January. I write semi-regularly about politics and pop culture for a Norwegian group blog, but there are certain things I’m more comfortable writing about on this platform, particularly when it comes to personal and gay stuff. I also want to write more about politics. After many years of inconsistent blogging and aversion to finishing things, I’ve realized that making promises is pointless. But ’tis the reason for resolutionns, so my ambition for 2015 is to work to become a better, more consistent (less verbose) writer on a broader range of topics.

First, however, I’m planning a couple of posts to sum up the year in music and movies.

To any readers who are somehow still following along, thanks so much for reading.

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Looking Back At My Favorite Movies Of The 2000s

I love making end-of-the-year lists. They force me to take stock of the year in movies, what I’ve loved as opposed to merely liked or even just tolerated, but as I mentioned in a previous post on the pleasures and pitfalls of listmaking, it’s also like opening a can of worms. Lists are supposed to be a “statement” of some kind, but that immediately triggers my vanity and insecurities. Whenenever I begin to assemble a list, I have to grapple with issues of representativity and “balance”, and whether a wish to highlight an underseen gem or to strike a balance between, say, serious drama and the uproariously funny dopamine injection, on some level contradicts the main criteria: That these movie are supposed to be my definitive favorites of any given year. Continue reading

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