Posts from 25th September 2003

Sep 03

I don’t agree with this proposal to dock points;

TMFDPost a comment • 156 views

I don’t agree with this proposal to dock points; it seems to be based on a false premise. The idea is that teams won’t recklessly overspend and run the risk of insolvency proceedings being needed if they know it will really hurt them. So far, so obvious.But there’s a crucial flaw here – it assumes that the people making the decisions regarding spending actually give a stuff about potential negative effects.

Recent history demonstrates that a great many clubs have been brought to the edge of extinction by owners who didn’t; they asset-stripped the clubs of their land, they signed contracts and subsidised them to the hilt, then withdrew the funding making administration the only option (if that; the people themselves who created the mess have long since buggered off by this point and generally don’t care whether the club lives or dies). Yet it is exactly these people who are entrusted with following these rules. Can you see the flaw yet?

Quick quiz question: Which if these heinous crimes has been subject to a displinary hearing by the game’s authorites leading to action being taken?

Burning down a stand in an insurance fraud
Hiving the ground off for a personal profit of several million based on evicting the club and building houses instead
Saying that asylum seekers should be sent home unless they were good at sport
Using the wrong toilet at half-time

Save vs Death

Do You SeePost a comment • 315 views

Save vs Death: article from the fine gaming site State positing that a lack of reliance on stat-crunching and character customisation is killing the computer Role-Playing Game. It had me spluttering with disbelief, mostly at the notion that 2nd Edition AD&D (nostalgically looked back to by the writer) was some kind of paradise of player freedom rather than an illogical hotch-potch put together by rule-obsessed megalomaniacs. My entire referee-ing career was spent trying to persuade people to play the character not the numbers, and I’m delighted if the numbers are playing less of a role in current RPGs. “If you want story, read a book”, suggests the author, provocatively. “If you want stat-juggling, buy a management sim”, I’d reply.

But the guy does have a point in that computer RPGs have been attempting to mimic tabletop games and failing dismally. Removing the numbers in my view will make them fail better, but fail they still will. What initially sold me on AD&D was the promise of a game in which there need not be any winners. Most players took this to mean that there would not be any ending, that characters would just get more and more grossly powerful. But hidden in that promise was also the hope of a different kind of game, where losing would be just as exciting and interesting as winning. My RPG players would often make mistakes on purpose, because that was what their character would have done. More than stat-tweaking, this seems to me the essence of role-playing: understanding an avatar’s flaws as well as powers.

Computer games can now do this a lot more, indeed it’s a selling point of something like Knights Of The Old Republic, where minor PC decisions can lead your character to the light or dark side of the Force. But the simple rewards of dicking about in character and entertaining your fellow players by it are still missing. If computer RPGs are continuing the tradition of tabletop games (and if pushed I’d say they aren’t really) it’s that element they need to soup up, not the stats.

The Football League catch up

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The Football League catch up with the Conference but is it too little too late, it’s hardly going to help the teams that were stiffed as Leicester went into administration last year and still kept their team together to bounce back up into the premiership.

“it was great to meet you, i’m sorry

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 291 views

“it was great to meet you, i’m sorry it was in a place where one could not really conduct a conversation @ normal talking volume” says duane of the Windmill in Brixton

Which it wasn’t, it’s true: the odd thing is that you couldn’t hear the music they were playing over the pub PA either – or rather, I couldn’t make it what it was, mostly. I misidentified Can’s “Yoo Doo Right” as Zep’s “Immigrant Song”, thought the Fall”s “New Face In Hell” was a cover version of same (!) by some cut-glass Oxbridge d00d (!!), and didn’t recognise Faust’s inimitable “It’s A Rainy Day Sunshine Girl” at all!!! I know all these records as well as I know *any* records, but I just couldn’t hear what they were in this sound-context. It’s not age and deafness, I don’t think: I’ve never been able to do this, to say quickly what a popsong is when it plays in a pub. It’s as if the acoustic stuff I use for recognition is exactly the stuff which is masked when people are talking.

I’m far more intrigued by the social dimension of music than I am in all that march-of-art-and-aesthetics guff – but the strange fact is, I don’t particularly interract with music socially. Almost exclusively, I listen to it on my own. I would know these three songs instantly in a blindfold test in an otherwise silent room: my antennae for guessing them as they manifest in a public, populated noisy place are vestigial at best. I think that I believe that this proves I don’t really understand music. I imagine that’s why I like talking and writing about it so much.

Menace To Society

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Menace To Society

Another of the small consolations of relegation to the Conference was Burton Upon Trent. A Mecca of sorts for the consumer of bitter, I’ve never been. I learned to drink beer through the good offices of Messrs Bass Worthington (or was it Bass Charrington? I was never able to work out the difference). I have long thought of the home of Bass as the home of a little piece of me, or ‘ more properly – a distressingly large piece of me. City were scheduled to play there on Saturday October 4th, a perfect opportunity for a pre-birthday day out.

What has happened to my plan to visit the rolling hills and (reputedly) divine boozers of Derbyshire? The Police have decided that it will be much better to hold the match on the Friday evening, plainly a move to encourage the barbarous horde of Exeter fans to absent themselves. Happily, we haven’t had any trouble so far this season and I can think of no reason why any should start now. It seems a shame that our day trip has been spoiled. Maybe I don’t know the full story. I’m in no mood to go off on a diatribe against the Derbyshire Constabulary.

But I hope they get Cardiff in the Cup.

The Centre of Attention is a gallery without a gallery

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 334 views

The Centre of Attention is a gallery without a gallery. It uses premises as necessary and appropriate, and its current temporary project is online. They call it the International Art Blog and it involves contributions from various art figures in various locations around the world.

I rather like the fact that its chaotic design makes it rather hard to take everything in at once. I like the fact it calls itself a blog but feel a bit too article-focussed to actually be one. I like the ‘public blog’ element, which is slightly more than a reactions function, in that it gives the unsolicited contributions equal billing to the ‘real’ contributors. Most of all I like the overall feeling that there’s far too much exciting stuff going on around the world for one person to keep up. I enjoy being reassured that the story of contemporary art can’t be written at the moment.

I roll my eyes at the references to openings. But that complaint is for another day.

VERA LYNN – “My Son My Son”

Popular26 comments • 3,139 views

#24, 5th November 1954

My God My God. One of the defences of the sales-based UK charts I regularly offer is that it impartially reflects anyone who is buying singles, not just the people record labels and radios would like to be buying them. This means the charts can be regularly mugged by tots and grannies taking a fancy to a particular single. On paper this is a victory for unpredictability and punter power, in actual fact it means Dame Vera and “My Son My Son” can get to Number One.

If you asked most people with an interest in rock what pre-rock pop sounded like – the stuff that Elvis shimmied into destruction according to the official histories – they’d imagine something not unlike “My Son”. Sledgehammer production, tottering sentimentality, a complete and deliberate absence of youth: this one has it all! If there was ever a battle between this old music and that imminent new one then this was so defeated, so comprehensively annihilated that now it seems like an archaeological find, not an old enemy, not even quaint.

The cautionary tale below

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 211 views

The cautionary tale below reminds me of the time I spotted one of Britain’s best-selling authors, whose popularity stems at least in part from the intimate portrait and celebration of his native city which backs up his whisky-sodden and lovelorn grump of a detective, signing books. At least that was obviously the plan; in fact he was sitting ignored in the window of a railway-station newsagent, pen in hand, stack of books at his elbow, but with no eager punters bustling up to demand an autograph. Never have I seen a sadder sight on the BritLit PR circuit — not even a PR or PA on hand to flatter his ego.

The real blow of course, was that the station was Edinburgh Waverley, and this was the author’s beloved home town…


Do You SeePost a comment • 334 views



Commentator: line producer John Coates

You sometimes wonder who they’re going to get as a commentator on some discs — as will be seen eventually, you half figure they just called up whoever was around and hoped they could come in. The connection isn’t quite so frayed when it comes to this film necessarily, but it is a touch random, in that Coates isn’t necessarily the first figure which would come to find when thinking about the film. It’s actually a fairly astute one in retrospect, though, as he’s the type of guy who never gets the attention but was everywhere anyway. As he describes it, he was the person who put the team of animators, designers and artists together as well as overseeing their work — it accurately describes what a line producer does, as well as being an equivalent of a casting director — and one would figure that he would have stories to tell.

And he does, though admittedly it’s a touch dislocated and definitely rambling — this isn’t a fannish celebration of the Beatles, which definitely was a good idea, but a discussion of a side project of another enterprise that happened to take on its own life. Coates himself sounds rumpled, perhaps a touch of smoker’s rasp, reflective, an English feller of a certain age who clearly isn’t experienced with the medium of commentaries and always sounds a touch surprised he’s there — he doesn’t openly question what he’s doing or the like, but he often falls silent, with the pauses clearly being the deleted prompts from the questioner sitting with him. And there are plenty of pauses for general thought during his discussions as well, which is often completely at odds with whatever’s happening on the screen — this is a commentary with many moments of no connection to what’s on screen, no frame by frame breakdown or the like. Certainly there are opposite moments, to be sure — noting the identity of people photographed for the “Eleanor Rigby” sequence, how perspective problems had to be tackled during “Nowhere Man,” spotting glitches and wiggles here and there (along with Coates saying how said problems wouldn’t be a worry these days). In ways, it could be a spoken word piece about the film and its history, one that doesn’t follow a linear or chronological path, with visual stimuli along the way, assuming one watches the screen, a piece with its own value in terms of reference and background, stories of production schedules and chance meetings and evolving things on the fly. Fun trivia bits? Sure — the guy who played George in the film was a bartender overheard by the director, Buckingham Palace ordered a new print in the mid-nineties, how quietly pleased if surprised Coates was in later years to realize that others had claimed Yellow Submarine as an influence to not just imitate Disney, a number of other moments, getting to hear Sgt. Pepper’s on an Abbey Road studio hookup a month before it came out.

Though my lasting memory has to be the final few minutes — Coates just doesn’t have much more to say off the top of his head, but the disc must be filled out, so you hear pauses for unheard questions from presumably worried interviewers with an eye on the clock and then Coates — politely, to be sure — essentially repeating himself time and again about what an enjoyable experience it was and so forth, on top of having said similar things throughout the commentary earlier. You just figure the guy wanted his tea by the end but was too restrained to say so.

Sorbet! It’s like ice cream that hasn’t happened.

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Sorbet! It’s like ice cream that hasn’t happened.

But it did. It happened so much, capping off a superb if classic meal at The Atrium in Edinburgh ‘ a far better restaurant than many of its London equivalents. And it led me to think of this strange British relationship with ice cream, which was culturally stalled for an age, and then burgeoned for a few shining years with a nine near the end, and then seemed to hit a glacier again.

You could say that Walls kept tastes frozen in the post-war years. Some time after rationing eased, they decided that Joe Public would prefer a variety of flavours and amusing shapes rather than real cream or other traditional ingredients for quality. And they were right, assuming that Joe was a cheeky lad looking forward to his teenage years. For thirty years they enforced their hegemony in the newsagent ‘ Joe’s boudoir of choice ‘ with adverts in comics for Funny Feet, and, famously, free freezers for the owners.

Which worked a treat for the company, but didn’t offer the same to Joe’s parents. Mr and Mrs Public were presumed to eat blocks of choc-ice, and later Vienettas, or with a grin dip their spoon into the viscous goo of a Two-ball Screwball on a family outing. What’s more, they knew they were missing out ‘ when tourism and an obscenely strong pound sent families abroad for the first time, they discovered that over there ice cream tasted different. Generous helpings of whatever made it taste nice were taken for granted in the States; the Italians just did it better.

It’s an indication of how much British ice cream had congealed that when the imports finally did burst in, it was through the challenging new marketing channels of television advertising and supermarket sales. The naughty new and hippy hip brands didn’t seem to want the customer base sewn up by Walls ‘ they created a new one, and suddenly ice cream was cool again.

But that thrilling ascent was only catching up with the neighbours. Ice cream’s bold new direction, I propose following the inspiration mentioned mere paragraphs ago, is to stop being ice cream, and start being sorbet. It’s a fragile, delicate taste that is so utterly incompatible with the British disease of accepting culinary mediocrity that another rush of elevation is assured. As a cleanser of the palette, sorbet is the perfect vehicle for the flavours of desert ‘ rich, easily sensual and undeniably pure. Adopt sorbet, I urge you, and it will be like ice cream hasn’t happened ‘ we shall know the pleasures of sweet things without the juvenilia of dairy, and our offspring shall grow to be young sophisticates, connoisseurs of that subtle fructose in ice.