Friday, 17 December 2010

Ruth Goodman

I am currently watching Goodman make Winberry jam and getting very excited about bell ringing, the reason I am blogging about Ruth Goodman is because she is one of the most entertaining TV historians alongside Tony Robinson. Goodman for those of you who don't know, is a famous historian who has stared in several historical reality TV shows such as Victorian Farm, and Victorian Pharmacy among others; she has also done some work with BBC History magazine and runs classes on historical crafts.

I fully admit to being a bit of a history geek, I have always enjoyed history, it fascinated me immensely, and the fact that Goodman is so enthusiastic about what she does keeps me glued to the screen, she really throws herself into her work, even sticking her hands in war buckets off piss just to make some yellow, sleeping in a wet ice cold bed to get rid of the common cold, and laughing like an insane child at the seemingly most 'ordinary' things.

I minor fact about Goodman is apparently in 'real life' i.e not on TV (obviously) Goodman chooses to live as people from the past did in a "say NO to Daz as water can alone can keep your whites whiter than white...it is not possible to be whiter than white, you lie Jennifer Ellison! AND YOU, Mr Winton" way (she does not use detergent to wash her clothes, just in case you didn't get the picture). Bear in mind, I took this information from Wikipeadia, it's accuracy could be dubious to say the least, but if it is true, fair play!

I have to admit, I have been watching the shows partly for her as she is bonkers, absolutely off her rocker, giggling at things I can't seem to find so amusing myself, but I love her for it. Ruth Goodman, you are ace.

Monday, 15 November 2010

On FIFA

I would like to throw in a correction about that blog which essentially just slagged of News Corp for hating the England team and English football fans - the BBC, the Daily Mail and others are helping too.

Not an apology however: The Sun and the Mail are hateful rags, and, while I generally approve of the BBC, Panorama's editorial direction has been dubious for years - football seems to be an easy target and these programmes appeal to a dubious demographic.

However, I'm thinking that although the timing is quite deliberate their points are actually far too valid to ignore.

FIFA are corrupt. That's the sort of statement you can say anywhere and it won't bat an eyelid. Everyone knows it. There's already been court cases, they've already been caught on camera, FIFA are corrupt and there's almost no one who would argue otherwise amongst friends or behind closed doors, even amongst some FIFA employees I'd imagine.

I'm saying it on a public blog and I expect no repercussions. Because it's true. They know it's true. We know it's true.

I could go on, or you could have a look around at the evidence available. If you're very lazy (i.e.  as lazy as me who can't be arsed to re-write various allegations and convictions) click this mofo http://tinyurl.com/36l2724

The point being that the repeated exposure of this corruption seems to do nothing to change the way FIFA operates. Sepp Blatter likes to see himself as a President on the same global stage as actual leaders of countries. In a sense he does have quite a lot of political power. FIFA makes a whole lot of money, and is involved in all kinds of development programmes where this money is spent, so FIFA have some clout. This was proven further when South Africa actually passed several laws for the benefit of FIFA's sponsors before the world cup (there's a lot written about this but it doesn't get much more official than this: http://www.sa2010.gov.za/legislation)

So essentially you have a powerful international body which is accountable to no one which at the very least has the power/clout the force governments to change their laws for their benefit.

Do you think this is a good thing? Because in terms of unaccountable international bodies, FIFA is probably the least of our worries. The World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund and the like operate with the same lack of accountability to a population but with much more power. But I'm digressing heavily here, go read No Logo or something along those lines if you want some intelligent discussion on that front.

So back to the point. The media has the power to hold certain institutions to account, not any power given by anyone (indeed, an unaccountable, in some cases global, power). At the moment it seems that only the British media is on the attack, possibly because no other nation has football so intrinsic to it's popular culture, except perhaps Brazil. and Brazil have a World Cup coming in 4 years. I'm no expert on the Brazilian media, but I suspect they're in no rush to fuck things up.

England doesn't NEED a world cup. We'd just really like one, and as has been mentioned often we have the stadiums and infrastructure that we could hold one tomorrow. FIFA's top bods now stand to make a highly significant decision. If they reject the English bid people will say it's because of the corruption. But if they choose the English bid the allegations will not go away, not even from the English press. So they're fucked in that sense. But the fact is that no one will care. Sepp Blatter isn't going to resign over it. It's quite likely no one will lose their position. and I've no idea how you'd go about putting pressure on people who are accountable to no one.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

How to dress: T&B fashion!

First socks, THEN shoes!

You might want to put some trousers or a skirt on before the shoes though. I'm not telling you how to live you life... or am I?

For that superhero look try putting your pants on next. Some of these are ideal:



Then a stylish jumper for the cold weather:



Or maybe just wear this: 


Now THAT'S stylish!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

His name is Billy.

I wish I’d believed the warnings at the time. We were told he was a horrible little man, but we just thought they were being bitter.
 
Billy Davies has done nothing but bitch and moan for the last year. If he was the manager of a club in the top half of the Prem it could be seen as clever posturing, but considering Nottingham Forest are languishing mid-table in the Championship it’s the actions of a man who thinks he’s better than his record suggests.
 
I’m not the biggest fan of his tactics but they’re often effective. His persistence with using at least one winger who can’t cross is puzzling but I’m willing to let that go. What I can’t abide is the unsettling nature of his comments. He thinks he’s making his point against the board/transfer panel/whatever abut it just makes him sound like a crazy little man. It was made very clear in the summer that we were trying to sign players (too clear for Cardiff and Swansea) yet he would have us believe that the board is against him.
 
However if he doesn’t shut up and start turning some draws into wins he’ll find it’s the Trent End who are against him. Mid-table and manager silence would do for me.

Update: mofo got a win tonight. Still needs to STFU though.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

A ramble I couldn't be bothered to finish

Why does Rupert Murdoch hate English football so much
 
Yet again a Murdoch owned newspaper acts with the intention of hurting English football. 

Can't post direct links ue to paywall so here's this: 

 
It can be argued that it’s valid investigative journalism of course, and there is an argument that corruption needs to be exposed. However at FIFA it’s corruption that everyone has known about for decades. Sepp Blatter has long been known as a dubious and highly inappropriate man. Perhaps that’s a post for another time.
 
But this isn’t about Sepp Blatter, a man who everyone in English football has despised for some time. It’s about Murdoch and the News Corp agenda which seems to be very much against the England team, moreso than other news outlets.
 
An article on the BBC site suggested “Any spirited journalist could've asked those questions from any country, and the answers would've been the same” but the fact of the matter is that they didn’t, be cause they’d quite like to host the World Cup at some point.

On Rooney

Many column inches/pixels have been wasted on Wayne Rooney this year and this blog entry is no exception. Based on a letter to Football365:
 
Alex Ferguson made a bold move in revealing the details of contract negotiations, or lack thereof, in a press conference. In said press conference he question Wayne Rooney’s character and made sure that he used Pravda  MUTV to make this statement:
 
“So there we are, we have got into a situation where we had to clarify this for our fans because what we saw on Saturday was unacceptable. When we got to 2-2 and they were chanting Wayne Rooney, it's a pressure on the players and didn't do the team any good so we had to clarify the situation and put it right."
 
Or reading between the lines: “You’re all a bunch of idiots, how dare you question my authority!”
 
And they there’s a lot of nonsense about loyalty and respect. Respect the club he says. The club which played him injured against Bayern Munich, aggravating that injury and knackering him for the World Cup. Yes, that’s worthy of respect, thanks Fergie.
 
I know everyone thinks their club is special but why they think a scouse lad should have any loyalty to a Manchester club which poached him from his boyhood heroes, bins players as soon as the manager gets sick of them and which represents the deep end crass commercialism in the sport is anyone’s guess.  Hating Manchester United has been easy for years, with much of their fanbase being casual football fans and massive chunks of their home support travelling in from London of a weekend, and a whole lot of arrogance the likes of which Liverpool fans were guilty of throughout the late 70s and 80s. Of course there’s a lot of sensible and realistic Man U fans too, although they are generally not Keane on going against the word of Fergie. His statement has essentially forced Rooney out of the club. There’s no way back despite the ‘open door’ mentioned. The pride of both men has been hurt, and I can’t see either backing down.
 
The media have of course gone apeshit, and have created a variety of reasons as to why this has occurred.  I imagine they haven’t seen eye to eye ion a few matters, but I think that the summer’s transfer activity was quite telling. Rooney wants to be in a trophy winning team. Manchester United seem to be lacking the resources to build one now that the interest payments are biting. Making such huge losses without a massive pile of cash to back it up is unsustainable, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. They can’t compete with Chelsea, Man City or Real Madrid in terms of financial muscle. It seems to me, and many other neutral observers, that it’s not the money or the press hounding, more a case of him wanting to win something in the next few years – he’s not exactly short of a few quid. This is why all the best players keep leaving Arsenal – ambition. This is also why Manchester City are becoming increasingly attractive to players (as well as the massive wads of cash) – eventually they’re going to win something.
 
Times change, clubs rise and fall, and I think the sun is starting to set on the Fergie era. You’ve had it good, now you might have to suffer like the rest of us.
 
Well, I say suffer, we’ll have to suffer the whinging on a grand scale, until the fair-weather fans disappear again. I can’t see a team that hasn’t won a trophy in a few years and with no star players left selling many shirts in Singapore, Malaysia and the like. How many Chelsea fans did you know in 2001?

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A Short Pointless Post About Nothing.

As I was invited to post on this blog, and after promising I would several weeks ago, I think it is about time I did so.

Now, I could talk to you about the things of current interest to me, such as how music should go beyond the recorder or the humble glockenspiel in the primary school, or how well Ariel gets my whites so gleaming white, instead, I am going to go back in time a few months ago to a petty niggle which affects my life in now way, shape, or form and talk about plagiarism... That's right, I am talking to you Mr Gates, Windows 7 was not your idea, it was Apples idea. Is it just me or has anyone else noticed how similar it is to what Apple have been doing for years on their computers?

Windows 7 is like a Walrus dressed as a flamingo, it is not offencive in anyway, it can be endearing, though it will never be as

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Guest writers have been asked to do some posts. Expect some at some point.

Dragon Quest IX: A ramble

The thing about blogging is that you can cover slightly different ground to traditional media. The following ramble is not necessarily the best example of this.


Well what have we here?

Possibly my favourite RPG since Final Fantasy XII, that’s what.

For the Japanese Dragon Quest is right up there with FF as one of the premier game series, spawning an absolute ton of merch and sales in the millions every time. Previous incarnations of Dragon Quest have sold modestly in Europe and the US. Even with the popularity of the Final Fantasy series RPGs have not really gained the same sort of sales here that they do in Japan.

This time around Nintendo have decided to publish the game on behalf of Square-Enix, and have thrown their PR machine behind it big time. If you’ve not seen a Dragon Quest IX ad on TV then you’re probably not been watching TV for the last month. Like all current Nintendo advertising they seem to be marketing it to a very wide audience, with ads featuring teenage girls and mid-20s men grappling with the menu systems and putting on bunny ears, although no celebs so far (they seems to have been saved for the current Mario push; Jamie Redknapp WTF!? I was waiting for him to say “that’s top, top platforming”).

There’s not really much to say about the gameplay itself. It’s all menu systems battles, old school RPG style, and wandering around looking for stuff. Actually that last bit sums up almost every game I’ve played this year. I digress. Where the appeal lies is in both the customisation (heavily featured in the ads) and the exploration, not to mention the localisation. Whoever did the translation job deserves some kind of award. I’m not supposed to be laughing out loud at RPG dialogue, but DQIX gets me on a regular basis. The various bits of map feature different British dialects including Welsh, Scottish and Cockney, a sort of generic northern and southern, and Australian for some reason (disappointingly no one says ‘flaming galah’), but it’s been done by someone who has a good grasp of such things, and can be hilarious, particularly your companion Stella’s mangling of common turns of phrase when ever she opens her mouth. I imagine her speaking like Dick Van Dyke for some reason.

Being a Japanese RPG the thing is epic, and there’s a ridiculous amount of things to collect. I’ve burnt 80 hours on it so far, and I’ve not even touched the multiplayer mode. And there’s downloadable content free via wi-fi, including extra quests on new items. I fully expect to still be dipping in to it in the New Year.

If you think the idea of fighting cucumbers and robotic pigeons whilst dressed as a Playboy bunny or in a tasteful leopard print dress sounds like a good time then this is definitely for you. Even if prefer shooting at things this might provide a respite and prevent you getting carpal tunnel syndrome.


Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The Inquest

Another international tournament and England are knocked out by one of the usual suspects.

Should we really be that surprised?

I was over it in less than a day. Can't say the same about Forest's play off woe which took about a month.

We all live in hope that England might do it, and the performances in qualifying added to that hope, but anyone taking a cursory glance at the other top teams knew that we don't have the same kind of depth of class as Spain, Brazil and Argentina. The Germans are about equal on paper, possibly slightly less talent throughout their squad, but they're always more than the some of their parts - the stereotypes of discipline, organisation and efficiency always seem to ring true for them in football tournaments.

From reading the press however you'd think we sent out 11 dead pigeons. The performance against the Germans was described as 'abysmal' in some quarters. This is quite harsh. Germany had a gameplan and stuck to it - let us attack, close us down and hit us on the counter attack. They did this again and again. It seems Beckenbauer pranked us with his 'kick and rush' jibes as that's exactly how they beat us - long balls from their half after an English attack.

Capello is taking most of the flak for the exit with three main reasons repeatedly dragged out, which are frankly bollocks:

442: Many seem to have decided that 442 is outdated, and that Capello's unwillingness to switch to the papers preferred 451 is his downfall. Last time I checked there were still a lot of top teams using 442. Premier League Chelsea for half of last season for a start, and Champions League finalists Bayern Munich and winners Inter Milan both used it as various points in time last season.

Emile Heskey: At times he was our best player. Rooney was awful throughout, leaving Capello's gameplan largely doomed without him collecting Heskey's knockdowns. Various idiots were calling for Heskey to be dropped, when it's Rooney who should have been on the bench.

Gerrard on the left: When he actually stayed on the left the system worked. When he decided he was going to wander everywhere we were left exposed. The question of England lacking a great left sided midfielder has been swept under the carpet of late, largely due to the performances in qualifying where various central and right sided players have filled in. If Gerrard can't play in a disciplined manner at the age of 29 he's got nothing left to offer anyone. Perhaps that's why he's been crap at Liverpool all season - deciding he knows best at the cost of the manager's job.

Capello did make mistakes - they seem to be related to listening to the idiots rather than doing his thing. He didn't dare to drop Rooney, he sacrificed Heskey, and he bowed the to pressure to include Joe Cole, who wasn't particularly effective. There's been suggestions that they players wanted a 451 with Joe Cole on the left - this seems most unlikely. Bringing back Carragher was a terrible idea, possibly the biggest mistake. I'd rather have taken Gary Neville, and that's saying something.

I would rather Capello stuck around to start the overhaul which is needed but this is looking very unlikely. As usual the FA have ballsed this process up, and with it taking 2 weeks for the FA to sharpen their axe (how blunt is it?!) it looks like we’ll miss out on Roy Hodgson for the England job (damn Liverpool!) and have to put up with dodgy ‘Arry Redknapp for a couple of years. The same Harry Redknapp who plays the 442 the idiots whinge about and has won a grand total of 1 FA cup as a manager.

If Capello is pragmatic and sacks off the England job for a much higher paying job elsewhere in the few days we might still get Woy, but even then we have to rely on the FA actually appointing him (popular in the game, proven track record at international level), instead of Redknapp (popular with the media... oh bugger..). Apparently The Sun are asking for David Beckham......... I think that says all that needs to be said about their football coverage.

The first people that need sacking are the entire FA board for taking 2 weeks about it. Back or sack, not procrastinate and dawdle!



What needs to change:

The England squad is now ready for a drastic overhaul. The majority of Capello's first team will be well into their 30s by the time the Euros come around, and have definitely played their last World Cup match. At least Italy's old guard won the thing. I fully expect some international retirements.

At this point I'll rake through some previously covered ground.

Joe Hart should be made England's first choice goalkeeper now. He's good enough to do it and he'll last a generation or two, so lets get him in there early. David James is a retirement candidate, and Rob Green's England career is likely to go the way of Paul Robinson and Scott Carson, so Hart should be in now, maybe with Foster as second choice depending on how he does next season - he might be another false hope.

Glen Johnson is young enough to keep the right back spot until 2014, although a great youngster could energe. Dawson is ready to become first choice centre back - either Terry or Ferdinand might retire, but we cetainly can't play them both together ever again without conceeding to any team with a stiker who can run. Carragher will go back into retirement, Upson will possibly remain in squads. It might be time for the likes of Ryan Shawcross and David Wheater to step up, and maybe Micah Richards will have a decent reason. At left back Ashley Cole might well continue, but Keiron Gibbs is looking like a potential long term replacement. Leighton Baines and Stephen Warnock aren't in the same class really but may be vying for a spot on the left. Nedum Onouha looks like he'll end up playing for Nigeria sadly.

Either Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard will retire. I wouldn't put money on it, but I think it's likely. If Gerrard doesn't go first I think Frank will. Milner is still one for the future, and will be a first teamer from this point onwards. Barry will last til the Euros but perhaps not much longer after that. Hargreaves is fucked, and isn't getting any younger. Perhaps it's time for Lee Cattermole (Cat or Mole?) to stake his claim. Yes he's a bit brutal in the tackle, but has you seen Javier Mascherano lately? Wright Phillips has probably played his last world cup too - he's 29 this year despite looking about 10. Lennon will stick around, Walcott will be back, and will Johnson. Stewert Downing and Ashley Young might step up. Jack Wilshire continues to impress and it's probably only a matter of time before he gets called up.

As for the strikers, Heskey will surely retire - for a start he's getting on a bit and the abuse he getting is shocking considering the effort he puts in. Rooney will hopefully become the player he thinks he is, he should be hitting his peak over the next two tournaments. Zamora might get a couple of games but he's no long term solution. Defoe and Crouch mioght be there or thereabouts. Darren Bent doesn't seem to impress England managers for whatever reason. Of the young ones coming through there's no one who's really shining yet, so it's a matter of waiting for someone to emerge. Perhaps Matt Derbyshire's time in Greece has been the making of him. Agbonlahor is another option, although he's yet to have a consistent season.

Of course what we really need to crack on with is capping as many eligible foreigners as we can. Everyone else is doing it, we'd be mugs not to. Mikel Arteta is the obvious choice, what with him having no chance of getting in the Spanish midfield (although he's 28 so perhaps not much use in the long run), and Charles N'Zogbia has even expressed an interest (24, good on the left wing...), but there's plenty of young players in the top squads who are quite poachable for England. Everyone else has a Brazilian, why can't we?! We could have had Carlo Cudicini in goal for the last 7 years, the once excellent Edu in midfield, Steed Malbranque on the left and the occasionally fit Louis Saha up front. We can be suckers or we can do what everyone else does - remember the 'French' greats Veira, Zindane etc..... Can't we sign up some Ghanaians, or maybe blag some Argentinians via the Falklands?

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

A Guide to World Cup Idiots

I love the World Cup. It's generally a fantastic competition.

What I don't love is the idiots that creep out of the woodwork at this time.

And what a lot of idiots there are.

Here's a look at the different varieties of World Cup idiot. These can be spotted in any pub in England over the next month.

NB: I'm talking about English people here: we've come to expect that the Irish, Scots and Welsh have no desire to see England win at anything.

Instant Expert
This is (generally) a man who has spent the period between tournaments watching almost no football, but suddenly develops very strong opinions around the time of a World Cup match. These opinions are remarkably similar to those of certain tabloid newspapers. It's almost as if they'd read something somewhere and decided to repeat it. Again and again. For a month. Last time it was all about how 'Crouchy' was England's best player ever. This years pearls of wisdom are likely to include "Rooney needs to calm down", "Gerrard and Lampard can't play together" and "Emile Heskey? Pah! Peter Crouch should be first choice! *does robot dance*"

Anyone But England
Comes in two flavours:
"Not bothered" i.e. Claims not to like football or doesn't follow it but has expressed a desire to support any other team.
"Glory hunter" i.e. claims to like football and has expressed a desire to support the 'best' team (presumably they've just switched allegiance from Man U to Chelsea again, or from Barcelona to Inter, or both).
Reasons given are usually a mixture of the wishy washy bullshit usually espoused by idiots and outright snobbery, i.e. the assumption that anyone who supports the England football team is a racist hooligan and is 'working class'. Parts of the media has decided that 'working class' and 'racist' are the same thing and the aforementioned idiots are quite happy to believe this. It appears to have become fashionable. I am wholeheartedly against this as I believe a big part of football's enjoyment is actually giving a shit about the result. When I watch Forest or England I actually care who wins, more so than the vague support I'll lend in any other match. If you don't really care, don't watch, and don't get involved. I'd rather a thousands pseudo experts that one of you.

Club Only Fans
Generally exclusive to the top end of the prem: supporters who not only don't support their country, but actively moan when their clubs' players play for their country. I for one used to be delighted when players at Forest used to get picked (used to be a regular occurrence 15 years ago!) whereas you'll find Arsenal fans delighted than Walcott isn't going and Man U fans hoping Rooney gets sent off as quickly as possible so he doesn't pick up an injury. A few years ago I remember a particularly contrary Man U fan cheering on Portugal against England because Ronaldo was playing. The fact that England had 2-3 Man U players in the team at the time (5-6 in the squad) seemed to make no difference. He wasn't even the stereotype Man U fan: he had a season ticket and was from somewhere near Manchester, as opposed to having a SKy box and being from Dagenham/Kuala Lumpar.

Stereotype Woman
Possibly only exists in adverts. Seems to think that men should earn the right to watch football by buying shoes or something. Women should be genuinely offended by this, and men should continue to be sick of adverts that make us out to be fucking morons. Future wife is as excited as I am by the World Cup. I work in an office which is 70% women and almost all of them have at least half an interest in England doing well, the others fall into the ABE category, complete indifference and the Irish. There's a Scottish lady who actually wants us to win so we'll stop banging on about 1966.

The Papers
Who spend there every moment trying to tear strips off the team until the World Cup, at which point it's 'support our boys' for a couple of weeks until the games start at which point they're 'not fit to wear the shirt'. A lot of the tabloids sell on the basis of their football coverage, much of which amounts to gossip. Essentially it's like 'Heat' magazine for men.

Here's the short version of the world cup year, as reported by the tabloids:
  • "Sack the captain, (how dare he get jiggy with an ex teammates ex girlfriend, which has EVERYTHING to do with how he plays football)"
  • "Sack the FA Chairman, (he said something controversial in private and we decided to print it in full knowledge of the fact it would have an adverse effect on the world cup preparations)"
  • "Manager doesn't know what he's doing, (didn't give us advance warning of who we has going to pick, journalist's toys thrown from pram)"
  • "SUPPORT OUR BOYS! FREE CAR FLAG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
  • "New captain injured, team doomed"
  • "Rooney has a temper, team doomed"
  • And from the Express: "Ghost of Diana says Rooney is a liability"


Ing-Ger-Land Hooligan Types
The insufferable ones who give us all a bad name, the ones who start fights in pub/at football matches/in tournament hosting countries, start running battles in town centres, threaten foriegn people who show their colours here, basically the people who the ABEs thing represent all England fans but are actually a tiny but very vocal minority.
As heard during the 2002 World Cup:
"what time is kick off?"
"About 5 minutes after the match."
Thw pub doors were locked shortly after this.

The Sheffield Wednesday Band
Learn some new songs for fucks sake.


Getting a reprieve are:

Clueless Girl Fan
She doesn't know what's going on but doesn't pretend to either and at least she's got into the spirit of the thing.

Vaguely Nostalgic Old Bloke
"I remember 1966.../He's no Booby Charlton.../etc"
That's nice, I wasn't born then, well done on surviving for another 44 years.

Completely Indifferent Person
Fair enough. As long as you don't keep telling us every 5 minutes about how you don't like football we'll let you off. No celebrating if we win though.

A late addition: Anti-football wind up merchants
I'm looking at you, tiny bassplayer lady. I'm letting you off because you're trying to wind up the idiots.

Monday, 24 May 2010

An old gamer rants.

And I'm not even that old.

I recently found my old Game Boy and even I was surprised by how hard the games were compared to modern ones - it had been some time! I remember Duck Tales as having been great fun, but I couldn't even finish one level after over 10 years away from it! Ditto Gremlins 2.

I also remember being accused of heresy by an older school Atari gamer when I said that 'Defender Of The Crown' was crap.

My earliest memories of gaming were on a Commodore 64, playing classic stuff like Jet Set Willy and Mask (also a popular cartoon and series of toys in the 80s, sadly hasn't seen a revival to my knowledge but I'll be looking it up), then a Vic 20 after the C64 broke. Tape based games and old school programing with lots of 'goto' lines. Eventually we (me, my brother and sister) got a Nintendo (NES) with Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. I clearly remember watching a film called 'The Wizard' about some video game tournament which was basically a long (and effective on my young self) advert for Mario 3, and of course getting the warp whistle in the manner shown in the film. I can't really remember many other games we had for the NES other than Defender of the Crown, Snake Rattle & Roll (which was immense) and Donkey Kong, I think we borrowed Mario 2 and Micro Machines which were both rather good.

At some point we acquired a Master System circuit board (no casing) but I don't recall playing much other than Alex Kidd which was built in. By this time I think we has received a Super Nintendo for Christmas, bringing the awesomeness of Super Mario World (we has 92 levels before we lent it to someone who saved over it!), F-Zero, Mario Kart, Zelda, Starwing, and most of Nintendo's output at the time, and some obscure classics like Pop & Twinbee, Mystical Ninja (STICKY NINJA!), Top Gear (nothing to do with Clarkson) and Muscle Bomber, possibly the best wrestling game ever committed to cartridge. I wasted many hours on Wing Commander and Sim City, and had many 4 player sessions on Super Bomberman.

One Bonfire Night we got a Megadrive, which led to us getting the first decent console football game (the first Fifa) and later spending many Saturday mornings repeatedly finishing Sonic 3.

N64 brought the joys of a 3D Mario and Zelda (two of the best games ever made) and the icon that is Goldeneye, (possible the best film tie-in game ever made). Oh and Mario Kart 64, a game I played almost every day for about 2 years. I loved the N64 but the sudden availability of cheap pirated games for the Playstation meant I was spending more and more time on Sony's grey demon. Worth it for Final Fantasy VII of course. I cried when Aeris died. You did too. Admit it. FF8 was good but pales in comparison. I've still got the memory card somewhere. Also during this era we got a PC and I played the likes of Command and Conquer and the last FPS I gave a shit about, Quake, with it's multitude of crazy mods (moshpit mode anyone?).

Then I went to uni. About the only games I played during this times were various versions of ISS/Pro Evo and Grand Theft Auto, and Final Fantasy 10, which has that irritating underwater volleyball thing going on.

From what I gather I didn't miss that much. Gaming made no great leaps during this era IMHO.

I had a brief time with a GameCube late into it's life and learnt to hate Super Mario Sunshine. The flawed version of Mario Kart helped coax me back into proper gaming though.

I bought a DS sometime in 2005 before any decent games came out for it, but after New Super Mario Brothers my collection has increased somewhat. Then we (this 'we' being me and future wife) got a Wii on the day it game out. A such I'm back into gaming properly on these two systems.

I lost the thread of what I was on about. Must be my age.

End.

Infinite Space: Harsh As.

I recently bought 'Infinite Space' for Nintendo DS. Part of the reason I've been slack at updating of late is that I've been playing the aforementioned game. I've racked up about 36 hours, not including the many hours lost by suddenly dying and forgetting to save. More on this shortly.

"What is this shit you're on about?" I hear you gasp, what with all my previous nonsense having been mostly music, politics or footballs based. I'm branching out a bit. Bear with me. It's been some time since I've done a game review.

Infinite Space is a space-based RPG. The story owes a lot to various sci-fi films; the star Yuri is essentially Luke Skywalker without the Jedi powers, and there's a lot of nods to both the Stars Wars and Star Trek, all with a strong sense that you're in some kind of anime series. This is no bad thing, indeed there's a surprisingly deep plot, which I won't ruin here.

The gameplay is of course the point of any game. It's an RPG, so there's lots of random battle. It's essentially turn-based combat, but with a gauge that fills up allowing you to decide what kind of attack to use based on this. As such there's lots of strategy involved, as well as modding your ship as best you can, buying new ships and making decisions that effect how the game pans out. It's the movement of the plot as much as the geekiness of the upgrading that draws you in.

However, If you've never played an RPG before this is not the place to start. If you've never played a video game made before the Playstation era, again this is not the place to start.

People talk about 'hardcore' games, by which they generally mean first person shooters or anyhting which involves killing folk. These people never played the old console games, ones which were incredibly hard, ones where you could spend a week trying to finish the first level, ones where you'd be smashing up controllers after you die in the same place for the hundredth time.

This game is hardcore. There isn't so much a learning curve, more a straight jump from 'start game' to 'harsh as fuck'. You will die, lots. You're probably thinking "yeah whatever, he's probably crap at games, it can't be that hard" and there'd be no convincing you otherwise - I say to you go try it out then, and come back when you've seen your first 'game over' screen. It will happen. Not only will it happen, you'll have forgotten to save. If you've just lost 2 hours of progress, as I did early on, you might even stomp around shouting expletives for a bit. Needless to say you'll remember to save early and save often after that!

But I like the fact that it's hard. I like the harshness of it. It reminds me of a childhood wasted playing Commodore and NES games back when games were proper harsh, when game over meant game over. I think you can even include some of the 16-bit era ('Flashback' just popped into my head). Of course you've got a save function here, you'd go mad if there wasn't [I gather I'm barely half way through despite the 36 hours of play, a completist could easily rack up more time], but it's the feeling that the odds are actually stacked against you, rather than being massively in your favour as is the case with so many games these days (shit, I'm old), the feeling of genuine achievement when you defeat someone who's killed you the previous 4-5 times.

There's bits where not much seems to happen, or you get lost as to what to do next, and these points along with the hardness factor have led to criticism in the various other reviews I've read, some (not all) of which appears to be mollycoddled modern gamers moaning about not being able to burn through the whole thing quickly.

I'll leave this digression because I'm going to carry on in a similar old man way in a separate blog post rather than shoehorning it all in here with questionable relevance.

Infinite Space is very very harsh. It's also very very good. If you like RPGs or a half decent sci-fi/anime yarn you'll learn to love this. If you only like killing Germans or killing prostitutes then you're better off looking elsewhere.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

My election day nonsense post.

Permit me a dubious analogy.

My main topics so far have been politics and football, so I'd thought I'd do a bit of a mash up.

Let us consider that Chelsea and the Tories are in the blue corner, and Manchester United and Labour in the red corner.

The blues have a vast amount of financial backing form a generous benefactor, and on such a basis you'd expect them to do very well, yet this isn't always the case. Big supporters of unregulated capitalism.

The reds have been crippled by stupid financial practices and have mortgaged their futures. To fail now could see a rapid decline. Once a home to many a socialist, they've sold out their values yet remained popular. Much trouble in the ranks, with some splits in recent years, and on the verge of outright rebellion if success dries up.

[which would make FC United something like the Socialist Workers Party]

Then there's the yellows. There's not a direct team comparison here. Norwich or Watford maybe, as they play in yellow? I'll run with Spurs and keep it all Prem, lets pretend they're in their yellow away kit.

The yellows have picked up a lot of neutral supporters who want to see the hegemony at the top broken, a new challenger to the big boys. No one is expecting them to pick up the top prize anytime soon but there's a general feeling that it's a good thing that someone else is competing.


I'm about to jump the shark.

UKIP = Bolton. Have been known to sign a big hitter from one of the big boys but generally finish mid table at best, generally lower. Tactics show a lack of ambition. No one is quite sure why they're still here.


Greens = Fulham. Most people have nothing against them, they might pick up the odd success but never likely to start a title challenge.


The Nationalists (all varieties) = Celtic/Rangers. Do well in their own league but don't stand up to scrutiny on a bigger stage. Essentially bigots.


Respect = Portsmouth. Had some big name signings a while ago but it looks like their party is almost over. Those who fuelled their early charge have gone on to wider 'fame' and what momentum they had burnt out a while ago.


Monster Raving Loony Party = Newcastle. Completely mental. Crazy policies, but generally quite popular despite a lack of any success. A good side show.


Pirate Party = Burnley. Have made a brief raid into the public consciousness but were never likely to sustain any serious challenge


Veritas = Hull. Once led by a controversial bright orange chap, now directionless and on their way out.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Why Charlie Brooker Won't Love You Back

I am aware that many ladies, not least Future Wife, have developed something of a crush on journalist and broadcaster Charlie Brooker.

For those unaware, Brooker is a Guardian columnist who is responsible for many excellent things including Nathan Barley, Dead Set, TV Go Home, Screenwipe and the award winning Newswipe. [I was going to insert links but I'll assume you can use Google if you made it here] These are all things I enjoy, which is why this next bit might concern other fans of Mr Brooker:

In an attempt to curb the festering fantasies of otherwise lovely ladies I will attempt to argue why Charlie Brooker cannot love you back.


1. He hates people.

'Misanthrope' often appears in the same sentence as Charlie Brooker; a bit of googling revealed such gems as "the misanthrope's misanthrope Charlie Brooker" and "celebrity misanthrope Charlie Brooker". You're a person. He hates you. and if you've ever quoted Nathan Barley in public, even ironically, he probably wants you dead. In fact if you've ever breathed oxygen he wants you dead. And if you hated Nathan Barley he hates you for that too. And your mum.

2. He hates everything on TV.

Except 'The Wire' obviously. He's not going to sit through 'America's Next Top Model' or 'Four Weddings' without interrupting to point out why it's shit, writing an article about how much he hates it or actually throwing his own shit at the TV. And don't even think about putting 'Friends' on.

3. He spends a lot of time doing fuck all but watch TV and play computer games.

The lucky bastard. It's also his job. That means he'll be hogging the TV and computer pretty much 24/7. You'll see him, but only slumped over a controller or remote, going slowly mad as he simultaneously watches Sky News and shoots zombies. Presumably not real zombies.

4. He's in a long term relationship.

With his right hand, if Screen/Newswipe are anything to go by.

5. He's a cynicism-powered robot sent from the future.

Yes. Yes he is. As such he cannot love, so your love will be wasted on him.

6. You can't change him.

See above. Robot. From the future. Also if he's running on Windows (which would explain his disdain for non-Microsoft systems - not compatible!) he could crash at any moment.


P.S. In the unlikely event that you see this, no offence Mr Brooker!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Audacity of Dopes

Merry fucking Christ, the media launched their election frenzy as full pelt. From now until May, probably longer, we'll have nothing but tedious bullshit on the news, in the papers and in various partisan blogs.

After the hundredth dreadful and tenuous metaphor on BBC News last night I gave up interest in the early coverage. That's not to say I'm not interested a t all, but by comparison 'The One Show' seemed like a fucking documentary. Let's hope that the party leaders don't decide that Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley's sofa is the place to campaign, although wedging them between items about leeches and diseased cat shit would be quite fitting.

I'll probably regain interest once it stops being so fevered and ridiculous. Or should that be 'if'. Actually who am I kidding, I won't be able to avoid it without getting rid of TV, burning the modem and barricading the doors.

They're trying to turn it into the media circus that the US elections are, making it all about imagine and personalities rather than policies. And there's probably a section of the population that likes this sort of shit, but not a big section. At a time when trust in politicians is at an all time low (and that's saying something) it's going to be hard to stomach a month of wall to wall lies and spin.

There's every chance I'll watch the live debates, in the same way I'll slow down to have a gleg at the scene of an accident. The fact that it was Sky News who did most of the bullying to make it happens tells you a lot about how they feel it will go, considering News Corp have already come out in favour of the Tories. Cameron is probably the most media savvy of the party leaders, and it's going to take a sterling performance from the other two to make any headway. He'll have been watching Obama's performances from 2008 on loop. He's not as cool a customer as Obama though - he makes it look easy and natural, whereas Cameron always seems to be trying too hard (WebCameron anyone?). Clegg is a bit of an unknown quantity (quite literally for some people), but it's Brown who will mostly likely struggle under the glare of the studio lights.

Considering the hatchet job the papers have done on Brown and Labour in the last few years it comes as a surprise that Labour are anywhere near the Tories in the polls. It would be nice to have what is constantly referred to as a 'hung' parliament, or what the rest of Europe calls a coalition government. There's a fair few countries who operate quite nicely with such a thing, such as Germany. I'd rather the Lib Dems were keeping one of the others in check, and I think Vince Cable probably has more public trust than any of the parties leaders or cabinet and shadow cabinet members - him as Chancellor in a coalition government is probably the best case scenario.

I tend to vote for a candidate as much as a party, since that's how our system actually works (note to tabloid editors...), although that's increasingly difficult in this day and age.

Last time around I was in the Withington ward, where John Leech ran a nasty campaign for the Lib Dems mostly involving lies about Christies, a specialist cancer hospital, being 'closed by Labour'. And they were outright lies, the sort of 'make the bastard deny it' shit that has been used in politics for too long - it became the agenda, and it worked, outing the sitting Labour MP who've been there since the 80s. It put me right off him, although he's not done a terrible job since getting elected. If I see any such bullshit this time around my few readers can expect to see an angry post about whichever lying bastard is responsible.

What I'm not going to do is tell you who to vote for. I'm not stupid enough to think a lone voice on a blog with a tiny readership will make a difference.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

A thought: England Team Prediction 2014

Yes it's a long way away right now, but indulge me.

I was mildly concerned about the future of the England squad whilst watching Rio Ferdinand putting in a half decent performance in against AC Milan just now.

Then I looked at our recent under-21 squad and was actually not as alarmed.

Some predictions (and a lot of typos):

Goalkeepers:
*Joe Hart will be first choice by this point.
*Rob Green might still be knocking about as back up.
*Hopefully Ben Foster will have joined a club where he'll get some games, the lad's got talent but could go the way of Carson and Robinson.
*Scott Loach will have made a move to a prem club by then (posibly this summer in fact if Watford's financial woes should continue).
David James will be running a comedy club somewhere.

Defenders
I hesitate to lump them all together but some of them are yet to specialise as full backs or centre backs.
I would be shocked if Terry and Ferdinand haven't retired from international football by this point, probably Cashley too. Unless Upson and Lescott suddenly raise their games they will be replaced by young uns.
*Glen Johnson will be 29, nd hopefully have learnt to defend as well as bomb forward.
*Micah Richards will have matured by this point so will be in there at right back or centre back.
*The only positon where we have proven specialists right now is left back, and Leighton Baines and Kieron Gibbs will be a good shout.
*Gary Cahill continues to look useful,and will be 28 by then.
*Ditto David Wheater.
*If Chris Smalling fulfills his promise he's a possibility.
*Ditto Mancienne.
*Spurs signed two lads called Kyle - Naughton and Walker, both of whom are very highly rated.
*Stephen Taylor, assuming he ever makes it back to the Prem, is an outside chance.

Midfield
The Gerrard/Lampard conundrum will have disappeared with their respective retirements from international football, Beckham will be nowhere near the squad, and Barry will be getting on a bit. Joe Cole and Owen Hargreaves probably won't even make it to this world cup.
*James Milner should have established himself as a regular someone in this side. Anywhere frankly.
*Ashley Young will be an option on either wing.
*Lee Cattermole (cat? or mole?) already looks like a future Hargreaves, hopefully with less brittle legs.
*Lennon another option on the right.
*Jack Rodwell looks a fantastic prospect, very skillful and has some power.
*Ditto Jack Wilshire.
*And probably Dan Gosling.
*I'm not convinced about the likes of Muamba, Delph and Jack Cork, but they all have a lot of time
*Tom Huddlestone is a fantastic player on his day. He seems to have shed his beer gut over the last season, and could make the step up.
*Stewart Downing - don't laugh, he's doing well for Villa right now and is probably the only proper left-footed player on this list.
*I'm going to throw Lewis McGugan into this list because I'm mental. He's a fantastically talented player, and there's been rumours about Prem clubs sniffing around him for a couple of years.
*Micheal Johnson appears to have fucked his life up with pies, beer, fighting and going to 42nd Street, he won't make it, which is a shame as he was a great player.

Strikers
Surely no one will be talking about Owen or Heskey at this stage. Crouch and Defoe will be in their 30s but are possibilities.
*Rooney, obviously. By this stage he should be recognised as one of the best players in the world.
*Gaby Agbonlahor should be reaching his peak. He's not reached great heights yet but he's got the talent to do so.
*Daniel Sturridge might have ruined his career by going to Chelsea, but he looks a great prospect and if he can get games he could be fantastic. Unlike Frazier Campbell (who will end up a mid-range Prem player at best) his club did not want to lose him, and Chelsea actively courted him. The lad's a bit special, and if he can learn from Drogba and Anelka he could end up deadly.
*Can't really tell with Carlton Cole - he could end up at a top half club this summer, and that will be the making or breaking of him.
*Freddie Sears looked great in the few West Ham starts he got, he hasn't had many goals though so another unsure one.
*Danny Welbeck - probably not.
*If James Vaughan ever gets fit he'll be great!

Somewhere
*Theo Walcott might have turned into a striker a la Henry by this point. Hopefully he'll have learnt to put in a consistent performance too.
*Tom Cleverley - you're thinking "who?" unless you're a Watford fan or a particularly dedicated ManYoo fan, he's 20 and looks very useful, can play attacking midfield or striker.

Obviously more players will emerge in the meantime, and some of these lads could go downhill rapidly (Shawcross is highly rated right now, I have missed him out because I think he might be another Nicky Shorey/insert briefly promising player here).

Of course, it's going to be held in Brazil so we probably don't have a chance, but it's nice to dream.


Any thoughts/glaring omissions?

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Class and politics ramble

Some scribbling on class and politics:

I should probably give up trying to establish a class identity. It’s fairly irrelevant to most of our generation and all of the generations below us, except those that get involved in socialist/anarchist politics – and those people would come under ‘middle class’ really anyway as they’re either a) students or b) people with enough leisure to time waste at such meetings. I used to bother to defend my alleged ‘working class’ roots but sadly the media own such debates now and ‘working class’ now seems to mean ‘dole scum’ i.e. the non-working class.

[It’s as tragic as the misappropriation of the word ‘emo’ to describe a recent fashion trend rather than an excellent 90s sub-genre of punk. I can’t even use the word now. Post-hardcore isn’t really the same, but it will have to do as a description for the future now that 'emo' is forever tainted.]

There’s isn’t a classless society as some politicians might like to suggest, but once clear lines are now faint to the point of barely existing, like a recently cleaned whiteboard.

I have perhaps in the past exaggerated my relative scumminess in comparison to the people I generally see these days, i.e. university educated, some of whom went to public school. I’ve probably been in more fights than most of them having lived in Mansfield from birth ‘til uni, and my family are far from rich, but I’m hardly a council estate kid selling hash and robbing pensioners.

To skip back to a half made point, it seems the people most interested in things like marxism and anarchism are students, especially the students who get involved in student politics. They don't seem to recognise the irony there.

It doesn't help that political debate in this country and others has been reduced to stupid reactionary debates, led by tabloid agendas set by media moguls who think it's their right to try to influence elections. It's created a situation where the papers will bang on about immigrants and muslims being the root of all evil using misinformation, outright lies and picking at latent prejudices, and if you speak to people who don't know much about politics there are the issues they will talk about, informed by the slow drip of hate coming from various media outlets. When the BNP try to campaign on exactly these issues (sometimes using quotes from these papers) the papers attack the BNP, having failed to notice that they have created a climate where their ideas can be accepted by people who would normally find such parties abhorrent.

Then the problem is created that expressing fairly liberal opinions on these issues leads to accusations of somehow agreeing with islamist terrorists and 'hating this country' because it's been turned into some stupid 2 sided argument (I hesitate to use the term 'black and white' here...) when in reality it's far more complex than that.

Then there's the feedback loop of parts of the media accusing other parts of 'dumbing-down', a debate so unhelpful it's ridiculous. When a newspaper accuses the BBC of dumbing down and then spends 3-4 pages talking about Katie fucking Price what conclusions are we supposed to draw from that? Even the 'quality' papers are increasingly guilty of this kind of shit.

Then in the same paper there will be talk of the government encroaching on our freedoms with tracking technology, CCTV, airport scanners etc, while encouraging the government to 'crack down' on crime and 'illegal immigration' . What do you want? A police state or anarchy? If you want it black and white then those are your choices. The reality lies in the middle, as ever. Some people like the idea of a crack down until it stops them doing what they want, as quickly as they want (see any UK airport, or any kind of police cordon anywhere), while others love the idea of anarchy until they get robbed or someone pushes in front of them in a queue. I could go on, but I've already rambled to much for now.

You can have it both ways - we've had a version of it for a long time - but it needs some tweaking. I have no faith that any of the political parties currently in existence will be able to make these tweaks.

The romantic comedy of the year!

The following is edited highlights of an email conversation with one of my musical co-conspirators, referred to here as 'S'.


Badgersmack: I actually remembered a dream, although it was about getting my wallet nicked and, after a very brief chase scene, the dull process of cancelling cards and getting a new driving license. Even my dreams are dull.

S: Also had a mundane dream last night, something to do with missing a ferry and having to reschedule. Woo hoo. Can't see that inspiring this summer's blockbuster, least of all because it would be set in the exciting metropolis of Stranraer.

Badgersmack: They both have potential for some European arthouse film. Or perhaps an Alan Bennett play if you were to throw a monologue or two in. given to a European director it would turn into some Kafkaesque bureaucracy hell, which would be infinitely more interesting than the actual dream.

S: The presence of Semtex at the back of the car could also open it up to the mindless chick flick market - Jennifer Aniston and Matthew McConaughey find themselves stranded at the Stranraer ferry terminal as they try to get home for their niece's christening. As the ferry sails without them, old conflicts rise to the surface. Can an adorable puppy bring them together? Typing that made me nauseous.

Badgersmack: It doesn't just sound likely - it sounds inevitable. I'm sure there's a way to force mundane dreams through the Hollywood filter.

s: Combine the two! With a side story of the whacky best friend played by Vince Vaughn loses his wallet - CAN HE GET HIS RECEIPT FOR THE DIAMOND RING HE BOUGHT FOR HIS GIRLFRIEND BACK SO SHE WON'T THINK HE'S JUST A WORTHLESS LAYABOUT??? Only the adorable puppy can bring THEM together too! Possibly by crapping out the diamond ring at the end to prove that it existed! Aww!

Badgersmack: My god, you've just written the romantic comedy of the decade!

s: I'm thinking Charlize Theron in a business suit for Vince's girlfriend. Imagine the scene - a beautiful sunset, Jennifer, Matthew, Vince and Charlize all standing around the Stranraer docks, a car ferry in the background, watching a bulldog puppy squat and crap out a diamond ring as the credits roll, to the strains of some appalling summery indie hit like 'Elvis Ain't Dead' by Scouting for Girls...

Badgersmack: *suppresses laughter to avoid confusing co-workers*

s: Maybe Semtex would have to have a more Hollywood makeover ñ he could become a Golden Lab puppy called Charlie... I can hear the appalling soundtrack now. I can see the film poster too - Stranraer docks at sunset, seagulls circling, the P&O logo visible in the background and a few HGVs, while Jennifer, Matthew, Vince, Charlize and Charlie the dog squashed into a really kitsch old-style Mini, Jennifer and Matt grinning cheesily while the dog's face is photoshopped into a visibly happy canine expression that does not occur in nature, Vince smirks in a hangdog way and Charlize looks away while chatting on her cellphone. Need a really stupid title now... hmmm.... Dockside Blues? No! -

Love Ain't All Plain Sailing ñ Missing The Boat Can Make You Right On Time for What REALLY Matters

Urgh. I am already firebombing cinemas in my head.

Badgersmack: I was gonna go for "Love and Semtex", although other possibilities I am currently making up on the spot include "P&OMG", "Diamond In The Rough", "Ferry Folly", "Hitler's Day Off", "The Stranraer Dockside Massacre"...

S: My favourite is P&OMG - a nod to maritime industry, yet being the most wince inducing title imaginable, proudly proclaiming its target audience of early teen girls who say things like 'LOL' out loud. It would also have the most linear plot imaginable, with even Helen Keller being able to guess in the first 10 minutes that smug Matt and waster Vince are going to get their girls back by the end of the film. Oh, and Matt and Jennifer could run slow motion into each other's arms past 2 burly middle-aged Scottish security guards and a bemused sniffer dog, who in an even more adorable twist can be seen being licked by Charlie the puppy at the end of the film.

Badgersmack: One of the security guards has to be Rab C Nesbit.

s: Maybe Billy Bob Thornton as 'Grizzled Trucker With Heart of Gold'.

Badgersmack: And an inspirational barroom pep talk from Sylvio Burlusconi

s: By barroom you mean 'customer lounge at ferry terminal, with drinks machine in the corner and ye olde video arcade game'?

Badgersmack: Perhaps, I've never been their but then neither has most of your target audience. Alternatively Rip Torn providing shambling drunken advice. In other words, as himself.

s: Maybe a few Loch Ness references and bonnie Scotsmen in kilts to placate the US market.

Badgersmack: Nessy has to pop up in the credits somewhere.

s: Like so?



Badgersmack: exactly

S: If someone actually made that film, I'd be too embarrassed to sue for breach of copyright.

Badgersmack: I'm tempted to put this whole thing in a blog post!

S: It would amuse me. Try to make me sound hardworking though! You totally need to put it on the web. It should bring amusement and renewed affection for actual films to the masses.

Badgersmack: It will be on Toast and Badgersmack by the end of the week (and here it is!).

S: :D Subplot: Jennifer Aniston bites her nail too short in the car. It hurts.

Badgersmack: That sounds a bit too highbrow for this kind of film.

S: I don't know, it could be another reason for her to cry in a stereotypically pre-menstrual manner and snap at Matt who is being particularly useless and irritating!

Badgersmack: Perhaps, she'd have to also get hysterical for no good reason, possibly to do with shoes.

s: Because he forgot to pack her favourites, and packed the ones he thought were her favourites, which are OMG SO LAST SEASON, which is obviously an understandable reason to fling the shoes into the dock, via his head.

Jennifer Aniston's character would be unbearably girly and ditzy and would do stupid things like wear 4 inch pink patent stilettos to a motorway service station, and her limping back to the car, parked at the far end of the car park beyond all the HGVs, would be a partial cause of missing the ferry. Their delay would be added to by Matt gawping gormlessly at some kind of sports fixture on silent TV in the service station.

Badgersmack: The concept of Aniston in a motorway service station is almost funny enough for its own film. Or Friends: Norton Canes edition.

S: Surrounded by ruddy faced people in fleeces and hiking boots queuing up for their soup and sandwich deal, while she wears a polka dot prom dress or something and makes a big show of asking if it is gluten free. Matthew also needs to laugh at her about “roughing it” while she whines about the fat content in a Ginster’s BLT, all the while standing out by being tangerine coloured in a sea of pale Brits and ruddy truckers.

Badgersmack: You’ve obviously not been to a service station in a while, the oompa loompa skin tone is increasingly in popularity. I think a visit to Wimpy might be necessary though (seriously, that would surely confuse them, it confuses me how they’re still in business), and general whining about the state of British coffee, perhaps with Vince Vaughan losing on Sega Rally to some 10 year old kid and then smashing the arcade up.

S: My knowledge of service stations is limited to Newport Pagnell and Westmorland on the M6, which has the benefit of pleasant greenery surrounding it. Vince would be dragged away by an angry humourless Charlize, and no-one comments on the fact she’s wearing a power suit to a service station on a weekend journey. I also think that Vince should drink a beer at the service station to showcase his US style “alcoholism”, even though he’s not driving, and be dressed something like Nathan Barley.

Badgersmack: You have had a deprived life! The service station is a grand institution, where human life at it’s most tired and irate can congregate to buy overpriced junk and relive themselves whilst their offspring pump coins into outdated arcade machines.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Coming up

Soon I shall be posting a mildly amusing email conversation, and probably a few more rambles. I've 'finished' and published everything from February now so if you like any of the other crap I've written please go back and have a look.

Conclusions on England vs Egypt

Having just watched England beat Egypt 3-1 I have a few conclusions. I'll do it player by player

1. Rob Green is adequate. He's a bit less gaffe prone than David James, and a lot more expereinced than Joe Hart. Hart will eventually be England's goalkeeper,but Green should start in South Africa.

2. Wes Brown is hardly a spectacular right back. Or centre back that matter. I can't see why Micah Richards isn't higher up in the queue, but I'll be hoping that Glen Johnson is fit.

3. Leighton Baines was ok, but again I'll be hoping Ashley Cole is fit.

4. Gerrard was a bit indifferent, much like is for Liverpool at the moment. He left a lot of chaseable balls which was disappointing. He wasn't terrible, but he was far from his best. By contrast James Milner looked like a world beater when he came on, and was relentless - I think he's booked his flight. Not saying he should start instead but Gerrard needs to bring his A game to South Africa.

5. Matthew Upson is a liability. It seems like not too long ago we had too many international class centre backs, so many that Sol Campbell ended up on the scrap heap. I think it might be time he was back in contention. Once again we can hope Rio Ferdinand is fully fit, but equally in terms of back up it would be nice if Ledley King could keep his knee together for a bit. Jonathan Woodgate is probably too crocked at this stage. Lescott is the same level of liability as Upson at this level.

6. John Terry has been in dodgy form for weeks,for obvious reasons. I've never been his biggest fan but right now he's the best fit centre back we have.

7. Theo Walcott ran a lot, bu his end product was lacking. Wright-Phillips was a lot more useful when he came on, so much so that I think he'll be going to South Africa. If Lennon is fit by then I think he'll be joining him ahead of Walcott. I've a feeling Beckham will be coming no matter what, which considering how mny positions he's played in at AC Milan is not necessarily a bad thing.

8. Lampard was a bit anonymous. Not awful, and he was playing in deeper role than he plays for Chelsea. Carrick was about the same when he replaced him, solid but unspectacular.

9. Defoe was busy, on another night he might have scored a couple but it was not to be. Crouch was fantastic as his replacement. He seems to be the opposite of Gerrard in that when he puts an England shirt on he looks like a world beater as opposed to the average striker that he is. These two should both be on the plane.

10. Rooney was pissed off that a lot of the starting 11 didn't seem to be trying. He was everywhere, because they weren't. As such he didn't get to show the form he's been showing for Manchester United. He seemed a lot more settled once Crouch and Wright-Phillips came on, possibly because he was no longer the only one putting a shift in. Carlton Cole didn't get enough time to make any real impact as his replacement.

11. Barry was as out of sorts as anyone in the first half, but seemed a lot better in the second half. A solid performance in all.

We'll need a lot of luck to win the World Cup. We'll need a lot of luck to get past the group stages if we play like we did in the first half.

Monday, 8 February 2010

On Football

Once again it's a World Cup year, and the media have cranked up their effort to sabotage the England team.

It can be argued that John Terry should have kept it in his pants, but it can equally be argued that it's none of anyone else's business. Same with Ashley Cole and the end of his sham marriage.

The pubic at large forgets or is unaware of the media witch hunt against Alf Ramsey during the 1966 world cup, mostly because they hail him as a genius these days. Nothing to do with any kind of sex scandal, but as far as they were concerned he was useless up until he won the thing, a theme repeated ever since.

Glassjaw @ Manchester Academy 24/1/2010

When I first heard Glassjaw on a Kerrang! cd or tape in either 1998 or 1999 I thought they were crap. I'm fairly sure the song was 'Pretty Lush'. I thought the singer's voice was annoying. I considered going to see Soulfly supported by them at Rock City but ended up sacking it off, but if I had gone I probably wouldn't have made any effort to see Glassjaw.

Then in 2000 I was sat having some beers at a friends house, and during the gaps in conversation I heard some amazing music. I think it was during 'Piano' that I asked 'who's this?', only to be shocked to find out it was in fact Glassjaw.

It's one of very few occasions where a band I've initially hated I've ended up being a fan.

So having missed out 11 years ago due to a snap decision based on one listen I arrived at Manchester Academy with innumerable listens of both albums under my belt. Yes, both albums. That's how many they've managed to release. They have threatened to tour many a time but there's always something stopping them, often Darryl's health. For the first time ever I paid extra for the cancellation insurance on these tickets.

For some people stumbling across this blog, perhaps some background is required. 2 albums in 12 years is slow going, (unless you happen to be Axl Rose in which case it's very fast indeed). They last officially released anything in 2005, an EP collecting together some B-sides from a few years earlier, and the only 'new' material anyone has heard is a track called 'You Think You're John Fucking Lennon' which is all over the torrents. In the meantime singer Darryl Palumbo has been either suffering with his Crohns disease or fronting Head Automatica, who made 1 very good pop-rock album and 1 very poor pop-rock album. He's done a few other side projects too, although these are somewhat more obscure. Various versions of the band have apparently recorded about 20 songs, which may or may not be released this year. Apparently there are record company issues, although it's quite possible there's 'unfinished songs' issues. Check their wiki page out for a bit of background.

Anyway, a gig review, which I've not done since being cast adrift by a certain free magazine that doesn't seem to retain it's volunteer writers for longer than a year... *stops going down a bitterness road*

Missed the first band, second band were a bit crap, Pulled Apart By Horses was their name. They had one good riff, which made up the last two minutes of their set.

Glassjaw eventually wandered onstage. I say eventually, it turns oput they'd done their own soundcheck, but it's been so long since they played and no one was quite sure who was in the band at this stage except the hardcore fans, which I don't qualify for as I only have the two original versions of the two albums and not the relatively obscure tracks. I digress. The band came onstage and.... did nothing for about 2 minutes. They talked amongst themselves, Justin Beck played a chord for a bit. Then they started 'Tip Your Bartender', the opening track from 'Worship and Tribute', and the place went a bit mental. Palumbo's voice was in fine form, his entertaining performance akin to a child having a tantrum, the band were tight as fuck. Even the slightly shitty sound in the Academy didn't seem to matter as the quality shone through. The first half of the set was a mix of new stuff and tracks for 'Worship..', with a couple of b-sides thrown in (El-Mark and Convectuoso, both of which I have since 'acquired) and the aforementioned John Fucking Lennon, the second half with a few more from the first album. The new stuff sounds really good, and eventually it might actually be released, or leaked on to the internet. The hardcore fans (including the man next to me who kept shouting for 'Black Coffee' and doing the softest moshing in the world) seemed to know the words already, probably due to YouTube footage that can be found on their offical website.

The only black mark on the evening was the fact that the band didn't seem to care that there was an audience for most of the gig. About the only things Darryl said to the crowd were some ramble about chavs and frozen margaritas, asking for a beer and introducing songs as either 'This is a hardcore song' or 'This is the best song'. I suppose it's hard to keep to the hardcore philosophy when you're playing a cavernous venue but there were frequent 'awkward' silences where the band stopped and chatted amongst themselves between songs. As a friend who went to a different show said, he seemed like a 'right mardy bastard'.

It's often a testament to the real size of a band's fanbase how many bootleggers are outside. Glassjaw had a whole lot of bootleggers. And their t-shirts were better than the official ones.

But to sum up, as reviewers probably should, it was a good gig, I got to sing along to songs I liked when I was younger at last, and hear some good new stuff, the band could have engaged a bit more but it wasn't a ruiner, and if they come back again I'll definitely see them.

Independent.

BARELY EDITED POST

Here's some ramble about independent records labels and the shittiness of the music industry.

Earache Records were one of the first labels to release grindcore. They were also one of the first independent labels I was aware that bands had criticised, having heard first band from couple of bands who used to be signed to them about the owners reluctance to pay royalties or bother to promote more than one record. I remember speaking to the singer from a grindcore band (probably best off not naming him or them for legal reasons!) of the late 80s who said that they're still owed over £3000.

I used to be a bit of a fan of Roadrunner Records as a teenager. In the mid 90s their roster was a 'who's who' of great metal bands (excluding the 'big four' of thrash and Pantera), with a few hardcore bands thrown in for good measure. Anyone who was into rock music at the time will fondly remember great albums by Fear Factory, Machine Head, Sepultura, Type O Negative, Shelter and various others whom I could list, or you could go on Wikipedia and see their more comprehensive list. I assume there is one.

The late 90s were the era of Ross Robinson, then the most prized producer in rock, recommending Amen and Glassjaw amongst others, and involved a bit of diversification in the shape of Junkie XL (who later found fame and a No. 1 single remixing Elvis as JXL) and signing up some random indie bands, including Mansfield's Delirium, who had to change their name to something like D-Elz for legal reasons and then got dropped before releasing an album (I had to check this as was doing it purely from memory - the bass player is now in an Abba tribute band...). More significantly for their bank balances they signed Slipknot, who became huge at the turn of the century, partly due to their first album being great, partly due to them being very easy to market. When the sales slowed, Slipknot got dropped, despite what appears to be a continued large fanbase.

People assume independent labels will somehow be more ethical than the majors, that they don't plan to screw bands over in exactly the same way. Many an interview with bands tells us that the opposite is true. Glassjaw have gone as far as to state that people shouldn't buy their first album, to download it, to avoid giving Roadrunner and further money. Apparently contractual issues mean that they still can't release songs recorded whilst on the label in any other format, and to date they claim their career has been hampered by 'decisions we made when we were 21'. more about Glassjaw in another post.

I've not even got onto promoters who are only interested in promoting themselves rather than the bands they claim to represent, or the London band manager who screwed a band out of a shedload of cash by getting them a fixed rate for session work on an album that went on to sell 3 million copies, before largely ignoring them to focus of a high pitched and very irritating singer.

These are all symptoms of why the music industry deserves to die. Records labels want your money, 'professional' gig promoters wants your money and for them to be the main attraction, managers want at least 10% of a bands money and a lot more besides. All of these things are becoming redundant, and that can only be a good thing. Bands and solo artists are waking up to the fact that they don't need record labels, they don't need managers and they can organise and promote their own gigs. DIY is the way forward for everyone. Free downloads are becoming the norm. People expect that their record won't necessarily sell many copies, if they try to sell it at all.

The criticisms of this approach are generally the same: I've heard people complain that it might mean the end of the 'professional' band, but in reality only the really big bands dont' have to get jobs once they've finished on tour - that's not a situation that's going to change. Then there's the lower production values inherent in DIY, but then a £3 million recording (yes, it does happen) is still going to be played through the same speakers as an album recorded for nothing on a laptop, and the average listener probably wouldn't know the difference these days as home studio set ups are getting quite sophisticated. Innovation almost always comes from someone fiddling around with limited resources, rather than a rich rock star recording in a plush studio in Barbados snorting coke from a hooker's anus.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Tiredness can kill

I don't sleep well. I am usually quite tired. Someone once told me I might have sleep apnoea, although I might just be generally snoring. I definitely do that, as my lady often tells me!

Anyway, as such the era of the energy drink is a blessing to me.

Assisted by my 'focus group' of bassplaying energy drink addicted ladies, here is a list of energy drinks I can recall trying and some tasting notes:

Red Bull - The daddy of the modern energy drink, and a taste I quite like, although others are less impressed. Quite what that flavour is I'm not sure, vaguely fruity I suppose. One of my bands runs on this.

Red Bull Sugar Free - no thanks. It needs the sugar.

Rockstar (black) - big can, taste like a slightly cheaper Red Bull, which it is.

Rockstar Mango (orange) - lovely, I could drink it all day

Rockstar Guava (purple) - also quite tasty. Rockstar seem to be going for Rubicon's market.

Relentless (brown) - Nicer than Rockstar, less nice than Red Bull and slightly less effective IMHO.

Relentless 'Tropical' (i.e. mango) - again lovely, I'm not sure If I could pick between the Rockstar one and this.

Relentless Berry - a tasty alternative to the mango ones, tastes a bit like Fruli but without the alcohol.

Pussy - truly very odd, tastes a bit herbal, not particularly nice, only bought it for the amusing name.

Euro Shopper energy drink - ewwww. 35p, only when desperate and poor.

Blue Charge/all supermarket ones - again not particularly nice, certainly not if drunk warm. I've lumped all the supermarket ones together as they all seem to taste horrible warm, but tolerable cold. Not unlike Carling in that respect.

V - quite nice actually, an interesting alternative.

Purdey's - lovely, like a non-alcoholic wine. The silver version doesn't have any caffeine in but is my favourite of the two.

mad Chinese thing i forget the name of in a square bottle - tasted like treacle in an ashtray, made me feel very odd. possibly toxic. Tiny bassplayer 'the one with bleach'.

Red Devil - just a cheaper tasting Red Bull. Inoffensive.

Red Rooster - about the same as Red Devil

Irn Bru 32 - A true contender, tastes like slightly concentrated Irn Bru, which can only be a good thing.

Any of the 'shots' - all terrible, make me feel sick, and slightly too wired after a few minutes. The really strong ones give me the shakes.

Lucozade, whilst generally good (original or purple for me) doesn't really count anymore, although they do caffeine versions which are quite nice, there's a lemon flavour one I've had more than once. However the 'Alert' shot is as horrible as the others I've tried.

Zen Republic - I vaguely remember drinking this. Odd flavour, contains about 10 million ingredients. Says a tiny bassplayer: "It's nice, I have only seen it in Holland and Barrett."

Also the guarana herbal drinks (also Holland and Barrett. - tiny bassplayer says: "they send me loopy, thus...they rock!"

Shark - Says taller bassplaying friend - "Come to think of it I've only seen it in Northern Ireland. It is like Red Bull with a strange chemical aftertaste, and left Wayne's brother Denver completely wired for 48 hours, although he is not the caffeine connoisseur that I am."


Conclusion: Red Bull is the standard by which all others are judged, but the mango flavoured ones are also good.

Rambling return post

So I've been a bit slack with this. Here's some scribble.


I was thinking about politics and came up with some thoughts. We have a de facto two party system in this country due to the relative dominance of the Tories and Labour, but have a decent sized third party in the shape of the Lib Dems. The next election could be close enough for a coalition, which in my opinion would be a good thing - Labour's dafter excesses of late need reigning in and the Tories could do with someone to provide some kind of genuine support for the underprivileged.

Which led to me thinking about the American system. That seems to be set up for a two party system and nothing more, from every bit of political analysis I've seen. Other parties do exist but they're marginal.

The Democrats therefore seem to pick up a lot of people who would otherwise have joined another party, which goes some way to explaining their general lack of unity and infighting - they seem to be a coalition of loose common interest with various factions within it. The Republicans are much more homogeneous, and from the outside world appear to represent the bits of American culture that the rest of the world finds so objectionable - far-right Christian fundamentalism, guns, intolerance, warmongering, and the worst excesses of free market capitalism. I think part of the reason they are so successful even amongst Americans who aren't that right-wing is because people know exactly what they stand for, or at least what they think they stand for, whilst the Democrats are a bit more vague. In a country that deals in black and white, vague isn't the way to get voters onside. The Republican machine is set up to attack this vagueness, forcing the Democrats onto the back foot. Even when they have what looks like a cast iron policy to the rest of the world, i.e. Obama's heath care plan, the Republicans can manage to cast doubt on the whole thing by looking for the bits left to assumption and making false assertions, they using their friends in the media to spout nonsense about Obama being some kind of liberal socialist. The concept of calling Obama liberal or a socialist is hilarious to Europeans, most of whom have at least one large socialist party and actually understand what it means. If Obama is a socialist you might as well call Tony Blair a communist.

Much like American, Britain has developed a culture where people complain about government interference in their lives, then complain when the government isn't doing enough. It's exactly this attitude which caused the culture of spin to develop - there has to be a soundbite for everything or else the media has nothing to report, therefore 'the government isn't doing anything'. This part of the reason is why the Labour party, despite having done many decent things during their time in power, are in the shit. People no longer believe any of the 'good news' soundbites, even if they're true, and assume spin and lies at all times. 13 years will do that - no one believed anything the Major government said by the end of the Tories epic reign prior to Labour taking power.

There are many things in the American system we could adopt, like elected judges and officials in charge of public services at a local level. This would reduce the disengagement from politics that many people feel, and accusations of 'cronyism' and the like, and would hopefully reduce complacency and some of the more ridiculous decisions judges make. The drawback is the possibility of people electing reactionary idiots as opposed to the posh codgers we have at the moment, but it would make sense to have some people who have experienced real life in the legal system. This is put much better in Jonathan Freedland's book 'Bringing Home The Revolution

I'm a bit torn on this as I fear the people who would get involved might not be the kind of people I'd want involved. I'm not thinking of Homer Simpson taking over the bins. I'm thinking about the likes of the BNP getting small positions of power in this way, adding to their legitimacy. Although presumably they'd fuck it up and get voted out the next time as they seem to be a bunch of blaggers with no real policies.

In short I don't really know, I'm just another blogger, although not one with enough time on his hands to finish writing a cohesive article that doesn't have logic jumps and unfinished points. No system is perfect. It could be a lot worse. Our systems get a lot of scrutiny because we have the freedom to do so. Some aren't so lucky.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

A wise man once said...

"Arguing on the internet is like the special Olympics..."

...but I'm not going there.

I just read this article and it made me fear for the day when my dad learns to use the internet properly. I'm not sure if any of his personal techniques would work (including his classic 'take your rebuttal and turn it into your point despite it being the opposite of what you originally said, then repeating the original statement no matter who contradictory') when the evidence will be there in print, hang on what am I saying, I've seen the comments sections on any number of websites and people do this all the time!

You can win an argument with him but it requires either superhuman willpower or subhuman stubbornness. It's not worth the mental energy expended or minor brain damage you'll incur, so it's a hollow victory.

Yes, it was Christmas recently. The subject was muslims, in case you're wondering. I should probably point out that he reads the Star and the Sun.

Dear internet gods, let me dad be forever thwarted in computer use by his technophobia and inability to listen to instructions. It's for everyone's safety and sanity.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

You are not alone...

Apparently in a marketing industry magazine poll that "Go Compare" monstrosity was voted the most annoying ad campaign of 2009.

No meerkats = no love.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Agenda

All news outlets have an agenda. Blogs are no different. Reporting with the least bias possible is actually the definition of good journalism, but it’s hard to sell and as such hard to find. No one reports ‘the facts’ on their own anymore, it has to go through the filter of whatever editor or news values the particular outlet has. From the perspective of someone under 30 I find a lot of these positions a bit outdated. It’s obvious to anyone who has even a vague interest in politics that the old certainties of right wing and left wing and now more of a grey muddle, but not many newspapers have embraced this. Scratch that. No newspapers have embraced this. While The Guardian comes up with some great journalism a lot of the more frivolous articles (especially the lifestyle stuff) live up to old stereotypes – the ‘liberal lefty’ middle class sandal wearer who buys organic and worries about shit that will never directly affect them. If it wasn’t for this angle seeping through sometimes it would be without doubt the best newspaper online. It’s not far off already. It is the only remaining leftish newspaper - The Mirror is a joke these days, trying to straddle a line between a half arsed socialist agenda and peddling the same crap as the other tabloids. The rest of the press lives up to a stereotype that has existed for some time in politics and media academia - that the press are much further to the ‘right’ than the general population. And all of them, including the Guardian, like the beat the BBC with any stick that’s thrown their way.

It’s rare for me to be on the same side as Peter Mandelson, but he was spot on when pointing out the likelihood of Sky News following the agenda of other News Corp companies in giving tacit support to the Tories. Rupert Murdoch certainly used to be a very hands on owner (stories of terror sweeping through The Sun offices as he stormed through are legend), and it’s unfeasible to think that he doesn’t have at least some of the chief editors (or does he delegate to a ‘chief whip’ these days?) of his empire on speed dial when he needs to set the angle on the day’s news.

The less said about the Daily Mail the better. Check out the
Enemies of Reason blog for regular dissections of their nonsense.

So where is this one coming from then? I’ll let you decide for yourself, as I can’t be entirely sure how this all comes off to someone who isn’t me (if anyone is reading at all).