Posts from 13th October 2004

Oct 04

Who Needs Motty?

TMFDPost a comment • 355 views

Who Needs Motty?
Tonight’s England World Cup qualifier as texted to a friend separated from his TV.

Fine looking bunch of lads, these Azeris. Theme tune’s a bit melodramatic, mind. Says a lot about a nation, its choice of anthem. And this blood, thunder and screaming doesn’t bode well. They’ll sneak a point from a corner in the 89th minute, you mark my words.

We’re one up, Owen after 21 minutes. Nice header from a good Cole cross. The Azeris aren’t lying down, though.

It’s blowing a gale. Ball’s extra bouncy. Electronic hoarding’s advertising Jean-Michel Jarre’s latest masterwork (hope you appreciate this colour – it wouldn’t be a match without the desperate whiff of blatant – yet slightly inappropriate – commercialism. Wouldn’t want you to miss out on the full experience). And Rooney’s been booked. David Beckham is unavailable for comment.

HT 1-0. Time for a pint.

Smith on for Defoe after 54. Azeris have been very close. Find your local store at Keeper tips a Lampard screamer over. Michel Platini’s looking very cold.

Carole Nash car & bike insurance. Some very dodgy reffing going on by the man from Luxembourg. Wrighty’s boy is on for Jenas. Paul Robinson provides match’s best moment by decking a pitch invader. Bit of handbags. Wrighty’s boy’s got his dad’s attitude.

Here’s the 89th. Can the plucky little country pull it out of the bag? Time to hold your breath.

And there’s the whistle.

England 1, Azerbaijan 0.

Not pretty, but job done.

Nasty eastern European banana skin deftly avoided.

We can play out the rest of qualification from the comfort of the United Kingdom.

Germany, here we come.

Famous last words.


Do You SeePost a comment • 351 views

Some TV companies put a lot of their budget and effort into making quality programmes that are informative, intelligent and pleasing to look at. Channel 5 make Brainteaser, nuzzled in there between Family Affairs and The Farm. As bad as those two are, they don’t (quite) make you want to whack yourself on the head with a saucepan. Brainteaser does. Seriously, who thinks up this shite? The presenters look like they were picked from the toy section of Woollies and then doused in hairspray to stop any of those annoying signs of life emerging. I’m sure the background set is on sale there too, masquerading as a girl’s pencil case.

Now ok, the questions for the contestants themselves aren’t all that easy, but those open to the public are possibly worse than Richard and Judy’s used to be (‘What’s the capital of France? . . .You don’t know? . . .I’ll give you a clue, it begins with a P’). But more patronising. And much, much less interesting. I’m definitely not going to be watching it again. Absolutely. Never.

As an aside, I have to admit feeling sorry for Alan Titchmarsh. I was half watching ‘History of the British Isles’. At one point I was listening to him saying that he was being turned into a Neanderthal. I took a peek and saw him sitting in a chair, thinking that it was a pretty good transformation. Then the make-up artists started to work on him. Sorry Alan, but even you admitted that Neanderthals weren’t all that different from the rest of us!

I went to a conference last month on football

TMFDPost a comment • 112 views

I went to a conference last month on football – not a policy conference with wonks and stuff, y’understand, but a proper academic conference.

There were some good papers given, so for the benefit of TMFD readers; a synopsis of where we’re at, academically:

– I light a candle to our love see no colour
Did the famous football match in 1914 in no-man’s land happen? It seems the idea for it having taken place was a German soldier’s recollection, featured in BBC documentary in the 1960s. Extensive research of official regimental archives could find no evidence, but the researchers have conclued that such archives lie like cheap watches. After all, these were the killjoys who hated fun (and the poor bloody infantry) so much they stopped the chaps playing with each other.

Current thinking is that a) it probably happened b) but we don’t know where and with whom for sure and c) it may have been at several points across the frontline.

Anyway, the answer will be found in someon’e attic, in an old trooper’s diary. Get up those stairs, and get searching that old pile of papers handed down the generations. Together, we can make sure future generations don’t see Macca and the Farm as LIARS. The truth is though, regardless of whether it’s true, it conforms to a deeper truth, that all men want to play nicely with other except the toffs get in the way with their evil and nasty wars of capitalist endeavour comrades(or something like that).

– Wit’s oop wi’ Scottish Fitba?
The lecturer giving this very entertaining paper said his daughter summed it up when watching one game last season featuring one of the Old Firm and that week’s hapless saps. ‘Daddy’, she said ‘why do they only use one of the goals?’

– Football Democracy
Some wonk prattled on in an entertaining fashion, and relayed tales of dubious veracity about whether players were gay or not*.

– What’s cocking up US Soccer?
Intriguingly, the audience for football is big enough – the problem isn’t other US sports killing soccer, but European football, which gets great figures, and makes yer yank think ‘sod this for a game of soldiers’ when contemplating whether to tune their TV into the MLS. Well how ’bout that!

– What makes a good manager
Luck it seems. And judging by Brian Hamilton, former Norwich City and N. Ireland Manager who was the guest of honour for the conference, the ability to shoehorn a tale about Bill Shankly into any set of circumstances.

– Where did I come from Daddy?
Was football a product of rivalry between Eton and Rugby schools? Or was it a product of the pubs of Sheffield. Sadly, the more important question of ‘who gives a fuck’ was tantalisingly left up in the air.

– Do football computer games change the nature of fandom?
The answer is yes, and the presentation was done in the style of a Sensible Soccer game. Top work, though could have done more on FIFA vs ISS (more=agree with me).

All in all, much fun (apart from the location. The industry types go to Soccerex Corporate whore fest in that ship sail stylee hotel in Dubai. We wonky types go to Preston). If you add the number of players, support staff and other hangers on that make up ‘Football’ then there was a ratio of about 200:1 between objects of study and wonks, which seems ridiculously high, and also why concentrrating on the economics and such like missed the point; it’s a tiny sector, contributing little in those terms. It’s the cultural value that’s important. But what’s that cultural value? Er. People like football dead lots, and it’s a form of sociality important to many people. A simple conclusion for a simple game. Just don’t tell the people organising the next knees upConference.

* – This is not actually the case. It was a rigorous analysis delivered as a breathless tour de force(ie, great ideas relayed without a script in a kinda messed up the preparation and speech writing‘look at me don’t I know my material so well I don’t need notes’ kind of way.)


Do You SeePost a comment • 2,032 views


Martin Skidmore says:

Someone started a thread some time ago on ILE trying to cast considerable suspicion on people who ‘claim’ this is their favourite movie. It is my favourite movie.

It’s not my favourite because of its sophisticated and rich examination of feudal Japan, and the roles of peasantry and unemployed samurai, or ronin, an approach that looks far beneath the traditional mythologising. It’s not for the beauty and layering and artistry of the compositions, those three-levelled scenes Kurosawa sets up so neatly. It is not so that I can sneer at fans of The Magnificent Seven, its cowboy remake, which is itself a good film. It’s not because this is a great foreign art film, worthy of our respect and admiration.

I love this film so much because it moves and excites me. It wasn’t made as an art movie: it was a pretty mainstream film in Japan, a samurai thriller – it’s no more an art film than were John Ford’s or Howard Hawks’ westerns, and these are far better comparisons than Renoir, and especially than another Japanese giant such as Ozu. It’s a film of huge vigour and energy, emotional and kinetic. It has one of the biggest, most colourful and powerful and memorable performances I’ve ever seen, from Toshiro Mifune as the common-man samurai. It sets up a dangerous situation for an isolated village threatened by bandits; the villagers struggle to put together a group of warriors to protect them (I always enjoy these building-a-team sequences, and every character here gets a good introduction); the team make their plans and build their defences and train the villagers; and then the attack comes, and they face up to it in a titanic, extended action sequence, in torrential rain, the characters slipping and falling in the mud, dying in the dirt. You don’t have to give a damn about art movie values to find this an immensely thrilling and unforgettable movie.

On Dylan on Dylan…

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 497 views

Nice little Voice piece (if a bit soft on the ahem “nonexistence-of-influence” issue)

Like Elvis (and also those pesky Beatles), zimmie = a frankenstein human-jukebox monster made up of a million stolen bodyparts, where bodyparts = records made by other ppl!! (and also a bit somewhat books) (where elvis had comicbooks and the beatles had the goonshow)


Proven By SciencePost a comment • 277 views


Sorry, but I like “the internets” – which GWB seems to be saying regularly now. I think it describes the world as it is: yes everything is in principle connected to everything else, the entire wired world but three cliXoRz away ect ect, but actually don’t most of us – heroic trolls excepted hurrah!! – move pretty strictly within the domain of our own elective affinities (ie we read the sites we like; absorb and transmit the stories which confirm our beliefs; worldview-as-community blah blah). Oh No! Crisis on Infinite Blogospheres Oh No!

FREAKY TRIGGER TOP 25 SCARIEST THINGS 18. Your Boss Checking Your Internet Usage

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18. Your Boss Checking Your Internet Usage

The modern office provides few experiences more unnerving than when the IT department takes over your PC remotely. You watch helplessly as your mouse pointer skitters through setup and installation routines, as if your desktop was possessed. At the end you gingerly regain control, but the suspicion remains that they are still watching, and laughing, as you fumble around on news pages, message boards and worse.

Five out of the seven jurors for this list are or were ILX regulars, and the other two no doubt have skeletons of their own. We worked out in the pub once that ILX had cost the global economy almost two million pounds – god only knows what the figure might be for, say, Blogger. The co-worker across from me browses holiday and hotel sites; the colleague on my right looks at Gaydar. This fear isn’t just the preserve of web-board nerds.

At the root of this fear isn’t death or injury or even job loss (realistically the worst consequence of boss snooping, unless you’ve been browsing really dodgy sites), it’s the horror of being caught doing something and having to explain yourself. The rapier-like cut-and-thrust of message board debate seems very far away when you have to sit in a chilly office and explain to an impatient employer what exactly “IT IS TEH GAY” means, or what a “woebot” is.

The Limits Of Soul

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The Limits Of Soul

Discussion in the comments box here about “Eleanor Rigby” and the possibility of somebody covering it well. LondonLee posits the line “wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door” as a sticking point. I’d agree, but not because it’s a bad line. I think it’s an excellent line; succinct, evocative and memorable. As a child it creeped me out (a face in a jar – eww), before I was old enough the recognise what it was talking about, the gentility public reserve of the English when out ‘on their best’.

“Eleanor Rigby” it seems to me is a song about the impossibility of living without communicating, the horror of lives spent in self-made boxes. Soul music is a music about nothing but communication, communication that – at its peak – bursts out of the words it’s using and transmits sheer feeling. So for that specific reason I don’t think it’s possible to do an effective soul version of the Beatles’ song. But there’s more to it: “Eleanor Rigby” is a character sketch, it has to be sung at a distance (so the slightly fussy arrangement and Scouse deadpan suit it perfectly). And my wider question is – can soul music handle ‘character songs’ easily? Can a music so much about the ‘I’ and ‘You’ step back and not get involved?

(One counter-example that comes to mind is my favourite Stevie Wonder song, “He’s Misstra Know-It-All”, but that record’s power comes from Wonder’s obvious and impotent pain as he describes the archetype in question, rather than the character sketch itself.)

BLOCK BLOG 2: Time To Murder And Create

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 277 views


2: Time To Murder And Create

How I Got It: Borders Charring Cross Road, which happened to be the first place I looked. After the difficulty of finding number one, I though this might be the case here. The only problem was its top shelf positioning, which placed it out of my reach. A female assistant, an inch taller than me offered to help, and fetched a footstool from around the corner to make me look like Mr Thickee.

The state of Scudder: This is still early on in the series and Block has not really come round to the (admittedly relatively revolutionary proposition in detective fiction) that his lead can change all that much. Nevertheless there is more room for characterisation here with Block returning to someone he obviously likes. He plays up his time as a scrupulous if bent (like everyone) cop, and spends a few more dark hours with Trina the barmaid. Elaine does not appear, and there are a few conversations with his wife and kids that he regrets. Still drinking lots, still tithing, these are the quirks of early Matt. Still he is not really a PI, he does favours for people who can’t get favours from anyone else.

The mystery: It is a bit too academic this one. There is a blackmailer Spinner, who dies. He is blackmailing three people, and the question Matt feels compelled to answer is which one did it. His investigating technique is bloody awful actually, resulting in much tragedy all around – which in itself reflects on Matt who remains feeling rather depressed about all of this. Formulaic in the set-up it suffers poorly from only having one suspect left in the last thirty pages, effectively solving the mystery for you. Not one of the best on that front (though at least it does not giveaway whodunnit in the title), but Matt is coming more to the fore. (4/10)

End this face-changing madness!

Do You SeePost a comment • 108 views

End this face-changing madness! I cry over at Proven By Science. There is no question that CGI techniques have totally changed how documentaries are presented, though. I saw Panorama for the first time in ages on Sunday night, a documentary in which the Panorama team invented an unhealthy mousse product and proceeded to sell it to kiddies (this bit somewhat fudged, probably because the ‘new brand’ design looked like a Blue Peter competition runner-up). It used no CGI and had to repeatedly illustrate its voiceover with the same shot of mousse pots clanking off a production line, sometimes in slow motion for added portentiousness. This was horribly reminiscent of when 70s Play School would go ‘through the round window’ for an educational film on a plastics factory, and if this is the general standard of Panorama direction it’s no wonder the series is going to be revamped with pantomime horses and mud fights.

So despite the dreadful ‘battle scenes’ of mail-clad legs on history docs I say CGI = good thing. Which is not to say the old ways were always charmless. Before Panorama I caught a bit of BBC Parliament, which was occupying its empty weekend by repeating in full its Election 1974 coverage (Carmodic heaven!). This had me and my Dad enraptured at the fashions and fonts. In one sense little has changed – there was a red-and-blue map of London, divided by constituency and reflecting the changes on the night. In another sense everything has – the map was made of wood and the size of a coffee table, its constituencies giant jigsaw puzzle pieces.