Wednesday, May 23, 2018

World Cup Predictions, Part 2

As promised, we're back with some more predictions:

Group C: 

Round 1:

France 5
Australia 1 

Denmark 0

Round 2: 

Australia 1 

France 2 
Peru  1 

Round 3: 

Australia 1
Peru 2

Denmark 1
France 3   

Final Board: 

(N.B.: A win is worth three points. A draw is worth one point.) 

1. FRANCE: 9 
2. Peru: 6
3. Denmark: 3 
4. Australia: 0  

France and Peru advance to the Round of 16; Denmark and Australia eliminated. 

Group D: 

Round 1:

Argentina 3
Iceland 1

Croatia 2
Nigeria 0 

Round 2:

Argentina 2
Croatia 1 

Nigeria 1 
Iceland 3

Round 3: 

Nigeria 0 

Iceland 3
Croatia 3

Final Board: 

(N.B.: A win is worth three points. A draw is worth one point.) 

2. Iceland: 4
3. Croatia: 4 
4. Nigeria: 0 

As the inimitable Scooby-Doo would say, "Ruh-roh!" This prediction has Iceland and Croatia finishing with the same number of points! But they can't both advance to the Round of 16. So how would FIFA determine which of the two teams advances? 

The first criterion that would be applied to solve that mystery is Iceland's and Croatia's respective goal differences. That is, the total number of goals each team scored during the group stage of the tournament, minus the total number of goals each team conceded. 

Calculating Iceland's Goal Difference: 

Goals Iceland Scored: 

1 goal against Argentina + 3 goals against Nigeria + 3 goals against Croatia = 7 goals total 

Goals Iceland Conceded: 

3 goals against Argentina + 1 goal against Nigeria + 3 goals against Croatia = 7 goals total

Iceland's Goal Difference: 7 — 7 = 0 

Calculating Croatia's Goal Difference: 

Goals Croatia Scored: 

2 goals against Nigeria + 1 goal against Argentina + 3 goals against Iceland = 6 goals total 

Goals Croatia Conceded: 

0 goals against Nigeria + 2 goals against Argentina + 3 goals against Iceland = 5 goals total 

Croatia's Goal Difference: 6 — 5 = 1

Well, gang, looks like this mystery's just about solved. (Sorry, I couldn't help myself): 

Croatia advances! 

Sorry, Iceland. 

So, I predict that Argentina and Croatia will advance to the Round of 16, and that Iceland and Nigeria will be eliminated. (Though I wouldn't mind Iceland proving me wrong. I enjoy seeing underdogs win). 

Tune in tomorrow for more predictions.   

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

My 2018 FIFA World Cup Predictions, Part 1

Here at The Alcázar Gazette, we speak mainly about four themes: (1) Iberian history and culture, (2) the history of American comic strips, comic books, and animated cartoons, (3) self-improvement and living a meaningful life, and (4) politics and culture more generally.

There's no rule that says that we need to confine ourselves to those topics, however. Fundamentally, this blog is about things that interest me. While my main interests are neatly summarized in the previous paragraph, those are not my exclusive interests. I'm also a big fan of soccer, especially FIFA World Cup soccer and UEFA European Championship soccer. Since the 2018 FIFA World Cup article will be taking place next month, I thought I would start a miniseries on this topic.

Starting today and continuing almost every day until the World Cup begins on June 14, I'll be posting my predictions of the results of the games. I will be sharing my predictions for each and every game in the group stage of the tournament, followed by my predictions for the Round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals. Once the tournament begins, I'll be revisiting my predictions in light of what actually happens.  

So, follow along, and let's see how close (or how hilariously far off the mark) I come to predicting the outcomes of the tournament, right up until the final match on July 15! Needless to say, if you disagree with my predictions, you are more than welcome to leave your own predictions in the comments section.

Let the games Laff-a-Lympics begin!

(P.S.: Don't worry... though the next few weeks here are going to be World Cup-centric, we'll manage to squeeze a few more typical The Alcázar Gazette posts as well.)

Before I post my first set of predictions, it's probably a good idea to include some background information about this year's World Cup.

This year, the World Cup will be held in Russia.

Several national teams will be conspicuously absent this time around. Four-time world champions (1934, 1938, 1982, and 2006) Italy failed to qualify for the first time in 60 years. Three time runners-up (1974, 1978, and 2010) Netherlands failed to qualify for the first time since 2002. In addition, current African champions Cameroon, current Oceanian champions New Zealand, current North American champions United States, and most recent Confederations Cup winners Chile all failed to qualify.

Conversely, Iceland and Panama qualified for the first time in their respective histories. Finally, Peru, Egypt, and Senegal qualified for the first time in many years. 

Without further ado, here is my first set of predictions. 

Group A: 

Round 1: 

Russia 3
Saudi Arabia 0 

Egypt 0 

Round 2: 

Egypt 1 

Saudi Arabia  0 

Round 3: 

Uruguay 2
Russia 0

Saudi Arabia 1

Final Board: 

(N.B.: A win is worth three points. A draw is worth one point.) 

2. Russia: 6 
3. Egypt: 3
4. Saudi Arabia: 0 

Uruguay and Russia advance to the Round of 16; Egypt and Saudi Arabia eliminated. 

Group B: 

Round 1:

Iran 2

Portugal 2
Spain 1 

Round 2:

Portugal 3
Morocco 0 

Iran 0 

Round 3: 

Iran 1 

Spain 3
Morocco 1

Final Board: 

(N.B.: A win is worth three points. A draw is worth one point.) 

2. Spain: 6
3. Morocco: 1
4. Iran: 1 

Portugal and Spain advance to the Round of 16; Morocco and Iran eliminated. 

That's all for now, folks. Come back tomorrow for more predictions.       

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Two Sides to Every Coin...

There is so little genuine warmth about him; his kindness does not come from the heart, but merely from his principles. His biographies will tell of how he helped the laborers to carry buckets of water, but no one will ever know that he never gave his wife a rest and never — in all these 32 years — gave his child a drink of water or spent five minutes by his bedside to give me a chance to rest a little from all my labors.

Sophia Tolstaya, wife of the legendary Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy

[Digested from The Reader's Digest Reader (New York, Doubleday, Doran, & Company, Inc., 1940).]

Monday, May 14, 2018

What is Despair?

Walker Percy, a twentieth-century novelist from the American South. An author whose works I have got to check out someday. Photo from
«A child whose happiness is in large part because he does not see or understand the darkness of the world is not living in despair. He is a child. An adult who lives that way is childish, and stuck in a kind of despair.

In fact, real hope — not optimism, but hope — requires living in reality. It requires being able to look around at this world, to see its brokenness, acknowledge it, and begin to look for something better. That “something better” is not utopia; there are no utopias. The “something better” is a way of life that is saturated by the presence of God, and one’s awareness that He is everywhere present and fills all things, and that He loves us and desires us to live in communion with Him. When one knows God, one can be with Him in the plainest of everyday rituals: eating crawfish and drinking beer, for example. It is not despair to look out at the world, affirm its brokenness, howl at its injustice, and yet enjoy the ordinary graces the infinitely loving God pours out on His people.
In fact, a sense of well-being purchased at the cost of one’s consciousness, of one’s knowledge of the truth of things eternal and temporal, of right and wrong, is to sell one’s Self for the sake of peace. It is to purchase despair. It is to will to live in untruth. On the other hand, to look out at the world, even if one in some sense affirms God’s reality, and to see nothing but crucifixion, and no resurrection, is also to live in despair. W.H. Auden wrote:
‘O look, look in the mirror,
O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.
‘O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.’
If you are a Christian who cannot affirm that “life remains a blessing, although you cannot bless,” then you are in despair, and should seek repentance. If you are a Christian who cannot love his crooked neighbor with his crooked heart, then you are living alienated from reality, and should seek repentance.
To live in hope is to be completely aware of the divine blessing that is life, even if one is a poor conduit for that blessing. To live in hope is to love your broken neighbor as you love your broken self, because you are both shipwrecked wayfarers lost in the cosmos.»
Walker Percy, in an interview. 
The date and the setting of the interview are not given in the Rod Dreher piece that discusses it, nor does Dreher provide a link to the interview, as far as I can tell. This is surely an oversight on Rod's part, and entirely understandable and forgivable, for Rod is one of the hardest-working bloggers I know. What's more, he consistently produces extremely high-quality blog posts. So, special thanks to Rod for making me aware of this great Walker Percy quote. A quote that eloquently sums up the manner in which I am striving to look at the world and live my life. Lord knows I have failed abysmally at this to date, but, with God's help, I will yet find the Way. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A Nation Must Have a Collective Mission, Part 1 of 2

The Surrender of Granada (1882), by Francisco Pradilla Ortiz. 
"A people is [...] an integrity of destiny, of effort, of sacrifice, and of combat, that ought to look at itself as a whole, and that as a whole advances in History and must be served as a whole." — José Antonio Primo de Rivera, in "Concepto de Estado" ("Concept of State"), a speech he gave in the Spanish parliament on December 19, 1933.

"The life of all peoples is a tragic fight between the spontaneous and the historic. Peoples in a primitive state can perceive in an almost vegetal manner the characteristics of the land. Peoples, when they progress past this primitive state, realize that they are defined not by the characteristics of their land, but by the universal mission that differentiates them from the world's other peoples. Once this belief in a universal mission degrades into decadence, separatisms begin to flourish again; people turn once again to their soil, their land, their music, their language, and once again the glorious integrity that was Spain in its best times is endangered." — José Antonio Primo de Rivera, in a speech at the Calderón Theatre, in Valladolid, on March 4, 1934.

"The fatherland is that which, in the world, configured a collective enterprise. Without an enterprise, there is no fatherland; without faith in a common destiny, everything dissolves in native regions, in local flavors and colors." — José Antonio Primo de Rivera, in "Patria. La gaita y la lira," an article in FE,  issue no. 2, January 11, 1934. 

"The fatherland is a total unity, in which all individuals and all classes are integrated; the fatherland cannot be in the hands of the strongest class nor of the best organized political party. The fatherland is a transcendent synthesis, an indivisible synthesis, with peculiar missions to fulfill." — José Antonio Primo de Rivera, in his speech marking the founding the Spanish Falange, at the Teatro de la Comedia in Madrid, on October 29, 1933.

"The fatherland is the only possible collective destiny. If we reduce it to something smaller, to the home, to the land, then we are left with an almost physical relationship; if we extend it to the Universe, we lose ourselves in an incomprehensible vagueness. The fatherland is precisely that which configures over a physical foundation a differentiation in the universal; the fatherland is simply that which unites and differentiates in the universal the destiny of a whole people. It is, as we say, a unity in a universal destiny." — José Antonio Primo de Rivera, in "Ante una encrucijada en la historia politíca y económica del mundo" ["At a crossroads in the political and economic history of the world"], a conference at the mercantile circle of Madrid on April 9, 1935.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

He Learned the Best Virtues from his Best Teachers

"Of my grandfather Verus I have learned to be gentle and meek, and to refrain from all anger and passion. From the fame and memory of him that begot me I have learned both shamefastness and manlike behaviour. Of my mother I have learned to be religious, and bountiful; and to forbear, not only to do, but to intend any evil; to content myself with a spare diet, and to fly all such excess as is incidental to great wealth. Of my great-grandfather, both to frequent public schools and auditories, and to get me good and able teachers at home; and that I ought not to think much, if upon such occasions, I were at excessive charges."

Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD, in "The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius."

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Happy (Belated) Cinco de Mayo!

Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, which commemorates the improbable victory of the Mexican Army over the French army at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

Image from a Mexican history textbook commemorating the Mexican victory at the first Battle of Puebla.
By 1861, Mexico was in dire financial straits as a result of debts accrued by the Treasury in the prosecution of two wars: the Mexican-American War, which lasted from 1846-1848, and the Reform War, which lasted from 1858 until 1861 and pitted Liberals who believed in separation of church and state against Conservatives who believed in a close relationship between the Mexican government and the Catholic Church. Accordingly, in 1861, Mexican President Benito Juárez announced the suspension of foreign debt payments for two years. Britain, Spain, and France responded by sending their navies to Mexico to demand repayment. Britain and Spain ultimately withdrew their forces after negotiating with Mexico. France, however, sought to overthrow Mexico's government and replace it with a Second Mexican Empire that would be closely aligned with France.

This Second Mexican Empire was to be the cornerstone of "Latin America," a French project whereby France was to offer cultural tutelage to the Romance language-speaking nations of the Americas. The concept of "Latin America" was invented in the 1830s by the French statesman Michel Chevalier, who argued that the Romance-speaking peoples of Latin America were a "Latin race" that, united, could become allies of "Latin Europe" against "Teutonic Europe," "Slavic Europe," and "Anglo-Saxon America." The idea of a "Latin race" quickly gained widespread appeal among the elites of the newly independent nations of Hispanic and Portuguese America, who looked to France as a model of modernity and regarded Spain and Portugal as backward and decadent. The term "Latin America" was first used in an 1856 conference in Paris by the Chilean politician Francisco Bilbao. To be fair, after France invaded Mexico in 1861, Bilbao urged the nations of the Americas to support Mexico against France and asked the elites of "América" [a term commonly used by Latin Americans to refer to their region] to reject French culture.

The Siege of Puebla on March 29, 1863, was an important victory for the French in their effort to establish the Second Mexican Empire. 
To summarize, France invaded Mexico in 1861, only to be defeated on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Puebla.

In 1863, however, the French would return, capture Mexico City, and install Maximilian of Austrian as Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico. In 1866, due to pressure from the United States and imperial overextension elsewhere, Emperor Napoleon III of France withdrew French forces from Mexico, which led to the collapse of the Second Mexican Empire and the execution of Maximilian in 1867.

April 2, 1867. Entrance of Porfirio Díaz to Puebla, by Francisco de Paula Mendoza (1902). This painting commemorates the Third Battle of Puebla, at which Mexican Liberals led by General Porfirio Díaz defeated Mexican Imperialists. This battle was a key event in the collapse of Second Mexican Empire. 
In Mexico today, Cinco de Mayo specifically commemorates the Battle of Puebla. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexican and Chicano culture more generally.

Accordingly, allow me to recommend to you this article on Mexican-influenced American music by my friend Dr. Frank Mintz.