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August Recess.

Hello all. No, GitM’s not dead. As per several Augusts past, I’ve spent the past few weeks on August recess, confining my thoughts on the various nightmares unfolding in Ferguson, Gaza, Iraq, etc. to 140 characters on Twitter and Facebook.

In the meantime, my girlfriend Amy and I have been getting in lots of travel this month — first a long weekend in New Orleans where, among other things, I for the first time took in the French quarter, Frenchman St., and the future final resting place of thespian and scholar Nicolas Cage.

A fortnight later, we were off to Iberia for a stretch, with four and a half days in Barcelona and Lisbon each (with a brief, three-hour layover tour through Brussels — alas, we didn’t have time to visit my old stomping grounds of Waterloo.)

August is probably not the best time to visit Barcelona — it was as crowded as Times Square at times, on much narrower streets. Still, it’s an amazing World City, and Gaudi’s unfinished Sagrada Familia is like nothing you’ll see anywhere else in this system. Very highly recommended (although, again, perhaps not in August.)

By comparison, Lisbon and its dozens of ancient churches was more of a sleepy European capital. But it too had its charms, not the least Sintra and its ninth century Moorish castle, only an hour or so away by train.

In any event, if you want to peruse some photos from the trip (and aren’t already a Facebook friend), I’ve put three dozen or so up in the long-neglected Flickr feed. Suffice to say, a grand time was had!

Brick by Brick.

“These days the holy grail is an octopus or a dragon. I only know of three octopuses being found, and one was by me, in a cave in Challaborough, Devon. It’s quite competitive. If you heard that your neighbour had found a green dragon, you’d want to go out and find one yourself.”

By way of Dangerous Meta, BBC briefly looks into the Lego infestation of Cornwall. “[On February 13th, 1997] 62 containers were lost overboard about 20 miles off Land’s End – and one of them was filled with nearly 4.8m pieces of Lego, bound for New York…shortly after that some of those Lego pieces began washing up in both the north and south coasts of Cornwall. They’re still coming in today.”

The Beautiful Game.

And so it ends. After a US loss to Belgium that included a meme-making defense by Tim Howard, and a complete 7-1 evisceration of the host nation by the eventual winners in the Semis, Germany wins the World Cup 1-0 over Argentina, on a beautiful strike by Mario Gotze in extra time. “At some point we’ll stop celebrating, but we’ll still wake up with a smile.”

All in all, a really entertaining World Cup. And perhaps it’s because I reside in DC and spend time on Twitter, two of the most futbol-happy environments around stateside, but this felt like the year soccer might have finally broken through in America for real. Time will tell, I suppose. In the meantime, I should do a better job of supporting the MLS. Valar Futbolis!

Valar Futbolis.

“I.

I believe.

I believe that.

I believe that we.

I believe that we will get what turns out to be an entirely acceptable result in our third group-stage game that, combined with the result between the other two teams, puts us through into the knockout round!”

As USA reaches the second round the hard way, MLS Soccer’s Matthew Doyle offers his tactical insights on the US-Germany match. “Whether it was Klinsmann’s own decisions, or his willingness to listen to others, I don’t really care. What matters is that he made the right moves to get us out of the group. I’m tipping my cap as I type this.”

Next up for we Americans, wily, athletic Belgium, who I feel bad rooting against, having lived there back in the day. Still, to mix my fantasy metaphors, there can be only one — on to Round 2.

Over Ghana At Last. | Late Tie with Portugal

“There was a lot of shade being thrown at DaMarcus Beasley on Twitter, as if it was his fault that the Ghanaians kept bombing down his flank in 2-v-1s and whipping in crosses. You see the math, right? When it’s 2-v-1 on the flank, the best thing you can do as a fullback is coax the opposition into hopeful benders, which is exactly what Beasley did…The US can deal with crosses all day, but you don’t want Geoff Cameron, Besler –- most likely John Brooks now –- or especially Omar Gonzalez having to come out and meet attackers wide.”

As the US defeats Ghana 2-1 in their World Cup opener, garnering three critical points in this year’s Group of Death and revenge against the team that knocked us out in 2006 and 2010, MLS Soccer’s Matthew Doyle explains how the US’s risky rope-a-dope strategy worked. (Apparently, hardly ever controlling the ball was our master plan.) “The US invited Ghana forward, and wanted them to play thoughtlessly. Jermaine Jones pushed up the left real high to hunt the ball, and it worked.”

Of course, we also lost critical striker Jozy Altidore, who only broke out of a shooting slump against Nigeria, and whose speed, if nothing else, is needed to stretch the field. Without him, as this article points out, we’re going to have to bunker. And unless we start playing better (looking at you, Michael Bradley), Portugal and especially Germany are going to eviscerate us.

By the way, you’ve probably already figured this out by now, but Univision is streaming all of the games online for free. Accelerate the work day, work on your Spanish, and watch some very exciting futbol so far, all in one fell swoop.

Update “In their last four games – two friendlies and now the two group stage games – the US have conceded four goals after the 80th minute…They are sloppy in possession down the stretch, and even worse in closing down running lanes. All the precision you saw from this team through the first 80 minutes disappeared over the final 10.”

So Bradley did play better in Game 2’s almost-upset of Portugalfor 94 minutes. Sigh…well, we still have four points — hopefully the high-powered Germans will agree to a gentlemanly draw on Thursday.

Ryan’s Slaughter.

“[Y]ou can’t help noticing the deep historic irony that finds a Tea Party favorite and descendant of famine Irish using the same language that English Tories used to justify indifference to an epic tragedy…Ryan boasts of the Gaelic half of his ancestry…But with a head still stuffed with college-boy mush from Ayn Rand, he apparently never did any reading about the times that prompted his ancestors to sail away from the suffering sod.

In the NYT, historian Timothy Egan notes Paul Ryan’s rhetorical debt to those who helped perpetrate the Great Hunger in Ireland. “You never hear Ryan make character judgments about generations of wealthy who live off their inheritance, or farmers who get paid not to grow anything…Dependency is all one-way. ‘The whole British argument in the famine was that the poor are poor because of a character defect,’ said Christine Kinealy, a professor of Irish studies and director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University. ‘It’s a dangerous, meanspirited and tired argument.'”

Where It Began, I Can’t Begin to Knowin’.

“‘This is the oldest fortified settlement in the present United States,’ said historian and Florida State University alumnus Fletcher Crowe. ‘This fort is older than St. Augustine, considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in America. It’s older than the Lost Colony of Virginia by 21 years; older than the 1607 fort of Jamestown by 45 years; and predates the landing of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts in 1620 by 56 years.'”

Two Florida professors announce they have found the site of Fort Caroline, a French outpost ravaged by the Spanish in 1565, near Darien, Georgia — not near Jacksonville where it was thought to be. ‘The frustrating and often acrimonious quest to find the fort has become a sort of American quest for the Holy Grail by archaeologists, historians and other scholars,’ he noted. ‘The inability to find the fort has made some wonder if it ever existed.'”

But other researchers are saying hold up. “‘It’s not conceivable that the soldiers could have made it to the Altamaha River from St. Augustine in two days…If they are correct, then the Spanish would have moved the St. Augustine settlement 70 miles south, to its present location. There is simply no evidence for this,’ said Meide. ‘This new theory doesn’t stand up to the archaeological and historical information that has been amassed by scholars over the past fifty years.'”

Thus far, archaeologists have yet to scope the newly proposed site. So, with all due respect to fellow historians, I’d probably wait to see what they find first.

Kiev is Burning.

“Anti-government protests in Ukraine reached their most violent point on Tuesday as at least 25 people were killed and hundreds injured amid violent clashes between police and citizens. The protests have evolved into a full-blown crisis on the ground. What happens now is critical to the geopolitical struggle between Russia and the West.”

As the situation in Ukraine degenerateshere’s a decent primer — Paul Szoldra and Michael Kelly offer up stunning photos from the heart of the protests. “From riot police using ancient military tactics to defend against attacks to streets engulfed in flames, the photos coming for the heart of the standoff are incredible.”

Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang.

“‘I kind of had in my stomach that we were going to get Germany,’ U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. ‘Obviously it’s one of the most difficult groups in the whole draw, having Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo and then Ghana, who has a history with the United States. It couldn’t get any more difficult or any bigger.'”

The World Cup 2014 groups are announced, and — alongside Germany, Ghana, and Portugal in Group G — the US look to have a tough go of it. The silver lining: “There is actually some evidence that if the group of death doesn’t kill you, it can ultimately make you stronger.”

Those Pipes, Those Pipes Still Calling.

“‘Its long-time popularity, especially among the Irish diaspora in America and Britain, has made it a bonding agent for exiles,” adds Brian Mullen. ‘It is a way for them to recognise themselves, and others to recognise them, as a group.'”

Among them, of course, Leo O’Bannon: On its 100th anniversary, BBC surveys the enduring popularity of Danny Boy. “All the flowers are dying, and they will be for a long time, but then they’ll bloom again and Danny will still be on the road. You never know, because somewhere the pipes, the pipes will be calling.”

The End of Easy Hypocrisy?

“The deeper threat that leakers such as Manning and Snowden pose is more subtle than a direct assault on U.S. national security: they undermine Washington’s ability to act hypocritically and get away with it. Their danger lies not in the new information that they reveal but in the documented confirmation they provide of what the United States is actually doing and why. When these deeds turn out to clash with the government’s public rhetoric, as they so often do, it becomes harder for U.S. allies to overlook Washington’s covert behavior and easier for U.S. adversaries to justify their own.”

In Foreign Affairs, Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore argue that, as a result of whistleblowing, the US is “no longer able to rely on easy hypocrisy in our foreign policy. “Secrecy can be defended as a policy in a democracy. Blatant hypocrisy is a tougher sell. Voters accept that they cannot know everything that their government does, but they do not like being lied to.”

Note: The link is behind a paywall, but Digby has an excerpt and thoughts up, as does Farrell in the Washington Post. This also reminds me of Neal Stephenson’s Neo-Victorians in The Diamond Age, which I presume is the tack a defender of our obvious diplomatic double-standards would take: “That we occasionally violate our own stated moral code…does not imply that we are insincere in espousing that code.”

In Brendan Behan’s Footsteps.

“While MacGowan remained the undisputed Pogues leader and frontman, the more restrained Chevron was a rock-strong accomplice, comfortably taking on occasional lead vocals, turning his hand to banjo and mandolin as well as guitar when the occasion demanded, and pitching in with more overtly tuneful material like Thousands Are Sailing and Lorelei.”

Did the old songs taunt or cheer you? And did they still make you cry? The Pogues’ Phil Chevron, 1957-2013. “In 2007 he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. His last appearance was at a testimonial concert in his honour in Dublin in the summer.”

Sweden-2.

“Welcome to rural Sweden, sometime in the late ’80s. Citizens go about their mundane lives and children explore the countryside. But something isn’t quite right. Robots and hovercrafts are commonplace, and decaying science facilities sprout from the harsh Scandinavian landscape. There’s even a rumor circulating that dinosaurs have returned from the dead after some failed experiment.”

This has been languishing in the bookmarks for awhile: Artist Simon Stålenhag depicts a Scandinavian future that never was. “As he explains to The Verge, “The only difference in the world of my art and our world is that…ever since the early 20th century, attitudes and budgets were much more in favor of science and technology.'” [More available at Stålenhag’s website.]

Keep Calm and…Oh, Never Mind.

“We all know that the dangers facing us today are greater by far than at any time in our long history. The enemy is not the soldier with his rifle nor even the airman prowling the skies above our cities and towns but the deadly power of abused technology. But whatever terrors lie in wait for us, all the qualities that have helped to keep our freedom intact twice already during this sad century will once more be our strength.”

Along the lines of Richard Nixon’s paean to the fallen Apollo 11 astronauts, a draft, circa 1983, is unearthed of Queen Elizabeth’s potential remarks on the start of World War III. “The moving words were written by an imaginative speech writer taking part in a disaster planning exercise.”

Potemkin Prosperity.

“What they’ve done is they have filled the shop front window with a picture of what was the business before it went bankrupt or closed. In other words, grocery shops, butcher shops, pharmacies, you name it, they have placed large photographs in the windows that if you were driving past and glanced out the window, it would look as if this was a thriving business. It’s an attempt really by the local authority to make the place look as positive as possible for the visiting G8 leaders and their entourages, and it’s really tried to put a mask on a recession that has really hit this part of Ireland really very badly indeed.”

Not from The Onion: The Northern Ireland town of Enniskillen preps for the G8 summit by constructing a Potemkin village untouched by Britain’s disastrous austerity measures. “This is one big initiative really stemming from the Foreign Office in London. This is David Cameron’s gig. It’s his invitation, it’s his decision to host the G8 in County Fermanagh, which is, don’t forget, part of the United Kingdom.”

Chained to Work.


“‘The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation days and paid holidays,’ said John Schmitt, senior economist and co-author of the report. ‘Relying on businesses to voluntarily provide paid leave just hasn’t worked.'”

A new CEPR report finds — once againthat Americans are working inordinately hard. “Workers in the European Union are legally guaranteed at least 20 paid vacation days per year, with 25 and even 30 or more days in some countries. Canada and Japan guarantee at least 10 days of paid vacation per year. U.S. workers have no statutory right to paid vacations.”

Pope of the People.

“‘Even them, everyone,’ the pope answered, according to Vatican Radio. ‘We all have the duty to do good,’ he said. ‘Just do good and we’ll find a meeting point,’ the pope said in a hypothetical conversation in which someone told a priest: ‘But I don’t believe. I’m an atheist.'”

Stunning more than a few minds around the world — and breaking strongly from his predecessor — the recently inaugurated Pope Francis tells the faithful that atheists are saved as well, provided they do good works. (Agnostics too, I hope.)

I must say, I’ve been very impressed with Pope Francis so far. From ignoring pomp and circumstance and rejecting material comforts enjoyed by Pope Benedict XVI, to breaking with precedent to bless a guide dog, to washing the feet of a female Muslim prisoner on Maundy Thursday, to castigating “the cult of money” and emphasizing the need to address poverty, Pope Francis has — thus far — seemed closer in spirit to the Nuns on the Bus than the US Conference of Bishops, and a welcome throwback to the more progressive days of Rerum Novarum and Vatican 2.

Simply put, Cerebus and “God’s Rottweiler,” he’s not. Let’s hope it continues.

Series of Melancholy Tubes.

“It was thirty years ago that a band from Manchester released their first single ‘Hand In Glove’. For the next four years they released the songs that made me laugh, made me cry and definitely changed my life even if they maybe didn’t save it…This is my tribute.”

Panic in the Tubes of London: In the spirit of the recent Super-Morrissey, a fan recreates The Smiths’ discography as the Underground. Click through for prints or t-shirts.

London Falling.

“[M]aybe they’re all working off out-of-date history books, and think they’re invading the nerve centre of an empire covering a quarter of the globe. In the event that the nation’s favourite Time Lord ever fails to repel them, the Daleks are going to be deeply embarrassed to discover that all they’ve won possession of is a slightly rainy archipelago full of financial services professionals and sarcasm.”

With that Douglas Adams-y pronouncement, Londonist offers a handy Google Map of all the places in London where Doctor Who has saved the city. “We’ve also, because we’re nice like that, colour coded them by which Doctor it was that defeated them.”

Ruins of Babel. | Pompeii of the North.

“The mysterious structure is cone shaped, made of ‘unhewn basalt cobbles and boulders,’ and weighs an estimated 60,000 tons, the researchers said. That makes it heavier than most modern-day warships.” A sonar survey of the Sea of Galilee uncovers a large, ancient, and man-made cairn beneath the waves. “Underwater archaeological excavation is needed so scientists can find associated artifacts and determine the structure’s date and purpose, the researchers said.” Seems pretty clear it was built either to hide an ancient spaceship or hold in Cthulhu.

In similar news, and as seen in the comments of Charlie Pierce’s post on this subject, a dig in the center of London uncovers the ancient Roman city beneath. “The area has been dubbed the ‘Pompeii of the north’ due to the perfect preservation of organic artefacts such as leather and wood. One expert said: ‘This is the site that we have been dreaming of for 20 years.'”

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