Monday, December 31, 2007

Who's Gonna Build The Wall

Track of the year:

Ghostwriting Gabo, a brilliant account of a young mans encounter with Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I seem to get fairly regular visits from someone in Emmetsburg, Iowa, which looks like a nice place; whoever you are, have a happy new year!

If you don't believe me when I tell you how good The Wire is, have a listen to Charlie Brooker:

The poignancy of piers

A talk on happiness, with some very nice pics too:

Sunday, December 30, 2007

I Don't Want To Go Home

Is that Dimitar Berbatov, singing?

I hesitated before buying an Observer this morning, knowing it would be full of rehashed shit and predictions regarding who the movers and shakers in all sorts of wanky endeavours will be during the coming year, and I was right. There were two articles worth sharing though, first a very good, very enlightening profile of Benazir Bhutto ; second a bloody hilarious interview with darts commentator Sid Waddell.

A pretty miserable but predictable 1-1 draw for us yesterday against a Fulham side who otherwise cannot score in a barrel of fannies, but I'm not downhearted, despite our next three fixtures being Manchester Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal. None of the teams around us will pick up many points and by the time that games that actually mean something to us come around again, Mr Eck will have stamped his personality on the team and we will move smoothly away from the drop zone.

Gary Mcsheffrey is coming in for some awful stick but I think he has improved a lot since Mr Eck arrived; he still isn't very good, but he's better than he was and could get better still if he regains a bit of confidence. I wish Blues fans had a bit more patience, because he is getting merciless stick, which can't be helping.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Smoking Again

Radio Scotland has given us a little Christmas pressie with a highlights programme from Dean Friedman's Real American Folk, trust me, it's a winner. I generally hate this time of the year, with every radio programme, newspaper and magazine doing little more than rehashing yesterday news, but we can be thankful for small mercies.

Another irritating feature of the season is lists, every paper and every blogger has to tell us what they believe are best books etc of the year. I'm no good at this, because I can't remember what I had for dinner half the time, never mind what I read in February. This year though I came acrtoiss some brilliant writers, who were new to me: Ray Banks; Peter Temple, Don Winslow, Ken Bruen, Willy Vlautin, Niall Griffiths. Vlautin gets the nod for book of the year, as it has left me salivating for his next one, which comes out in April, I think.

Record of the year is Elvis Perkins Ash Wednesday, there are no other contenders.

Telly of the year was the Wire, with the last, searing, heartbreaking episode of The Sopranos being the best single hour and a half.

Radio of the year: Count Arthur Strong.

Soap opera of the year: Birmingham City FC

Comedy of the year: Birmingham City FC

Useless, dissembling twat of the year: Steve Bruce.

Best list I have come across, Ray Banks.

Iraq: The Hidden Human Cost

Lots and lots of good stuff at Barcelona Review

Find yourself some radio goodness.
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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mother and Child Reunion

Is it too late to wish everyone a happy Christmas? Probably.

I found myself in Cardiff on Christmas Eve and had two nice surprises: Spillers was still open, so I could browse their superb roots selection and get the Mrs something half decent and half obscure for her stocking, and, out of nowhere, a Borders bookshop has appeared. I had never been in a Borders before, and given that it incorporates a Starbucks, I suppose someone will tell me it is unethical to shop there but we are talking Cardiff here, a literary desert. And it is good, I got a brilliant music magazine imported from America with an ace CD attached and a load of books that were not available in Waterstones, just up the street. And the staff were cheery, a small but not insignificant point.

When I first moved to Cardiff it was well served for bookshops with at at least two good independents in the town centre, then Waterstones came along and swallowed everything up. For a while it wasn't too bad. There were two Waterstones within about a hundred yards of each other, but they were quite distinct. Now there is just the one, and it is awful. I remember when Waterstones first appeared and it was a real breath of fresh air, with a good selection of books, not just a load of bestsellers or Richard and Judy recommendations, and staff who seemed as if they had probably read a book themselves, at least once. Now it is the devil.

Three points for the Blues today with a 3-0 win and the fans are bickering, with some saying the result is all that matters and others wishing for a bit more. Personally, I would have wished for a bit more. As was the case with our defeat to Bolton last week, 3-0 flattered us. Middlesbrough were very poor, but we weren't much better, we created very little and all our goals were very lucky.

I think I still like Mr Eck, I like the things he said about a passing game when he arrived, I like the way he talks about us needing to have more belief in our ability and I like the fact that he has won us some points. I like the fact that, regardless of formation, we seem to have a more positive intent about us. I find it strange though, that for all the talk, he leaves our most innately talented players out. Fair enough, I suppose, if he doesn't trust them and generally, the cut of his jib sits well with me, he is still learning about the players he has, and he seems willing to make changes when he deems them necessary.

There was an interesting move today with him putting Larrsson on the left and Mcsheffrey on the right, a move which worked quite well, although I think we waste Larrsson when we don't play him in the middle. Teams have been killing us down the left all season, so with the introduction of Quedrue at left back and Larrsson ahead of him, we looked a bit more solid. Mcsheffrey had his best game of the season and seemed to put himself about a bit more than usual, plus it was a move that the opposition would not have anticipated.

Having said that, it was poor, all huff, puff and endeavour with very little subtlety or finesse. We rely on set pieces or mistakes by the opposition for our chances, we don't really create anything, and when we do, we look more like rabbits caught in the headlights than cold blooded assassins. Which reminds me. Cameron Jerome is not good enough, it as simple as that. I don't care how young he is, I don't care how hard he tries....he has no touch, he has no awareness and he lacks finesse.

We have a new Villain, O Connor. Every one has decided he is crap and not worth his place on the bench and when he comes on, the grumbles start. I am astonished. He has hardly started, but the minds have been made up and every misplaced pass is greeted with loud groans of disapproval. I think he is a good player, and given a run, and some love and patience he will prove it, but our benign and tolerant fans have taken against him.

The crowd was low, again. Well, some of us said years ago that if you want to be blase and price the working class diehards out, you do so at your peril; there will come a time when you want them back and they will say, sorry old chap, we have found better ways of spending our Saturday afternoons. We attracted a bunch of dilettantes when we went up last time, the kind of people who would post on message boards that no price was too high for the privilege of watching Man Utd and Arsenal and who would argue that everyone can afford it if they want it bad enough, Christ have we never heard of credit cards?

Well, thankfully, most of the dilettantes have fucked off, but the price remains too high for the old guard and they will take some persuading to make the financial sacrifice to come back. Lets hope Mr Eck makes us all believe that the price is worth paying. I think he will.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Just One Victory

The Tin Roof Blowdown is brilliant. All my usual caveats about Lee Burkes overblown prose apply, but still, it is brilliant.

There was a good article in the Guardian earlier in the week by a bloke recently returned to these shores; he commented upon changes in the language, or in other words, cack phrases, and wrote wittily on the concept of menus for coffee. Talking of cack phrases, when did "final episode" become "seasons finale"?

So, having courted and been rejected by one defensive bugger, the FA go and sign Capello, who was sacked by Real Madrid, having bored everyone half to death. Oh Joy. The papers tell us that above all, he is a pragmatist and will play to the strengths of the players he has available, lets hope we have a couple of fast and witty strikers coming through.

I am not xenophobic in these things but the appointment is a real condemnation of English football. There is no English manager who is remotely good enough, or innovative enough for the job, and there hasn't been for years. How many thousands of individuals have been through the English coaching system over the last 20 years? How many professionals have played and learned under English coaches? Yet. not one of them has come through and shone.

This compares badly with almost all of our neighbors, who produce players who become successful coaches seamlessly, and they do it as a matter of course. Cruyff, Koemann, , various Germans, Tigana and may others seem to finish playing, take high profile jobs and enjoy immediate success. Maybe English players are just thick. The old truism about Gerrard and Lampard being unable to play together has raised it's head again, well, if they had any intelligence it wouldn't be an issue; ask Tevez and Rooney.

Mr Ecks first home game tomorrow and the Blue hordes are beside themselves with anticipation, having forgotten the immutable law that the bastards will always let you down. It would be nice to be proved wrong.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Peace Train

I was about to start this post by saying that it feels a bit daft sitting here typing garbage in the certain knowledge that no one will read it, but having just checked my stats I see that I have still been getting visits during this hiatus, so now I feel guilty, which doesn't mean that any of this tripe will be worth reading.

As readers of my various blogs will have noted over the years, I am in the wrong profession and my working life is, well, dismal really and a few years ago I became a bit of a spiritual seeker; not in any profound way, but I would read a bit here, meditate a bit there, albeit without any consistency. Over the last twelve months my working life became worse than ever and the harder I try to find an alternative, the more entrenched I seem to become.

However, I decided not to moan about it, as I did in the past, nor swear revenge on those who were mistreating me and I determined to just try to keep my head down, be civil and polite to everybody, never lose my rag, accept my own part in my circumstances and just try and get on with it. The stuff that has gone on hasn't just affected me, it has affected others, in a much more profound way and one poor bugger has probably lost his position and his pension after many years of selfless service.
He and I were, are, victims of a nasty little coterie of gossip mongers and trouble makers, who seem to delight in causing trouble for others, whether it is justified or not.

Well, things have turned around a bit. The complexity of the work that I do is now recognised and I have been assured that senior managers are now aware that I have been most unfairly treated, which is gratifying. The point of all this is that without the spiritual shit I have read and the meditations that I have done, I would have been raging against the world for the last twelve months and demanding that not only is justice done, but that it is seen to be done.................and my position would have got worse. In a very small way, I have been trying to tread the eightfold path, and, in my case, there seems to have been some benefit in it.

Not that I have rendered myself incapable of righteous rage, far from it. I have been raging of late about the coverage of the dodgy donations to Labour. I am neither an an apologist for, nor a supporter of Labour, but this whole business is making me mad. The Tories accepting the moral high ground on these issues is laughable and the fact that no one challenges them is sickening. We don't have to do a historical trawl either, we just have to look at Michael Ashcroft, who is intent on buying a win for the Tories. A high ranking tory and a peer of the realm , who cannot tell us where his home is, not that he is trying to avoid paying tax in this country or anything as morally dubious as that.

The media, the pack animals have sniffed Gordon Browns blood and will not rest until they have satisfied their blood lust; it is the perfect illustration of power without responsibility. Meanwhile the Tories get away with murder; the sole focus of political reporting has become the haplessness of Gordon Brown. Cameron is praised to the high heavens on account of his his patrician ability to pour scornful abuse on someones head without advancing the debate or engaging in any kind of philosophising at all.

The soap opera at the Blues continues and Steve Bruce has departed for Wigan, where his style of play has already drawn comment from one of his new players. Wigan are going down, as sure as eggs is eggs. Dave Whelan must have lost his marbles. Meanwhile, the takeover of the club seems less likely and we have snaffled Scotlands manager.

The first signs are very encouraging, not least because we won our first game under the new regime, not that many buggers in the media seem willing to give us any credit for it. Two things struck me in Big Ecks first week: one was the way in which he spoke about the game and the way it should be played, with an emphasis on passing the ball. He noted that every player at the club should be able to pass the ball. The second thing was comments made by the new assistant relating to the club and the fans. He said something along the lines of it being a proper club with proper, passionate fans. I know that it was all PR, but it made a change from seeing the fans slagged off by the board and the manager.

The game against Spurs was interesting. Some Blues fans pointed out that Mcleish chose a similar formation to Bruce, which is true enough, but there were significant differences. The most noticeable change was that already, after only two days in charge, the team were actually passing to one another; even trying to pass it out from the back. They weren't actually very good at it, to be honest, but Rome wasn't built in a day and they will surely improve. Another pleasing factor was his willingness to go for the points, which in this case worked a treat; it may not always come off, but when it does, by Christ it is sweet.