Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Weight

Well it’s been a week for disappointment. First there was the 5 -1 humiliation against our neighbours. It’s bad enough losing to them, but to lose by such a scoreline, in such a manner, in a game which was absolutely crucial to our hopes of survival in the prem was, and remains, unbearable. Actually it is bearable, because I am bearing it, but you know what I mean. Still, we move on, probably to places like Swansea Cardiff and Plymouth, but there you go. The ginger Mourinho up in Bolton might still come to our rescue, but we now have to pick up at least one point, which I’m not sure we can manage.

Having said that, even by Blues standards this season has been a bloody soap opera. The farce of the take over; the employment of the Villa entryist Ridgewell, with his innovative way with a costly balls up, Bruces manipulation of the media and subsequent (welcome) departure, the failure to buy a centre half in the window, the Taylor tackle, the Sully and Brady arrests, the virtually unprecedented capitulation against the Villa: it hasn’t been dull. I wouldn’t bet against a Larrsson screamer in the last minute of injury time in the last game of the season to keep us up. I wouldn’t bet on it either.

Then there was the new Willy Vlautin. I loved his previous novel, The Motel Life and had actually been saving this one, deferring the gratification, as it were, and it turns out to be…………………thin. There’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s not much right with it either. It doesn’t read like a novel; it doesn’t even read like a series of short stories, it is more like a series of ideas for stories, or maybe songs. Anyway, it doesn’t hang together or cohere and there is no depth there, although it very well written. Plus there is a little CD that comes with it. A novel with a soundtrack, you can’t complain at that.

So, the third pisser. The Felice Brothers. I fell deeply in love with their previous album, so just like the Vlautin book, I could barely wait to hear the new one and it’s……….O.K. It might be better than OK, maybe it needs a few listens but it certainly doesn’t grab the attention in the same way the other one. Funnily enough talking of novels with soundtracks, I reckon they could write a superb soundtrack to a Vlautin novel. Maybe they should collaborate and inspire each other.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Some might think it ridiculously over the top and sentimental but I think Pottermouths inspirational Stoke City poem should inpsire us all. Come on Mcleish.................do it for the Pottermouth in all of us!

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Boy From New York City

There was a good article in the Independent the other week on Welsh photographer Robert Haines, who took photos of the locals around Merthyr during his holidays from college in the seventies, it's not too dissimilar around those valleys today. I wish I could take some photos of the characters I come across on a daily basis and stick them up here, I'm not sure it would be ethical though, nor am I sure that too many of them would take kindly to it. The article has a link to some of the pictures and is worth a look.

Lets hear it for Brum. Again.

Michael Chabon reviews Richard Prices new novel, Lush Life, which isn't available here yet but gives us something to look forward to. There is no point me telling you how good Price is, Chabon makes a good enough job of that.

An extract from Mark E Smiths autobiography. And another. Brilliant stuff.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Grocer Jack

So what's all this cobblers about the market regulating and controlling itself then? Where's Adams Smiths famous invisible hand? How come we can bail out the bankers but the miners and the car workers can get on their bikes and retrain? How is this just? Capitalism, don't you just love it? What a fucking con. The trickle down effect........... it's a been a long time coming and it's not in sight yet.

Millions of people all over the world do not have enough food, there are food riots in all sorts of impoverished places, us affluent buggers over here complain about the price of bread yet every time I open a paper I see that we throw enormous amounts of food away. Does it make any sense to you? It doesn't to me. It's all the fault of the Chinese and the Indians anyway, cheeky fuckers, wanting a share of the good life.

Cheer yourself up with 30 of the worlds saddest songs.

I've been a bit poorly all week and feeling a bit out of sorts and sorry for myself besides, but I have had the opportunity to get stuck into Richard Russo's huge, magnificent and moving Bridge of Sighs. I am big fan of Russo, but I wasn't sure I would get through this and had I not been tucked up in my sick bed I probably wouldn't have, which would have been my loss.

His previous books, all set in small New York towns have been full of warmth and quirkiness, as is this, but it was the sympathy he had for his characters that was enticing.....his books are like drinking a hot chocolate. Initially, this one seemed a bit edgier, the tone a bit more bitter: he seemed at times to be consciously trying to write the Great American novel, it all seemed a bit cumbersome and I didn't like the characters introduced in Venice and I didn't like the size of it, it is massive. Which shows you what I know. Nothing.

This one is like enjoying a hot chocolate in a warm bath, but with an edge of spice to keep you from getting too comfortable, too complacent. Russo is brilliant on characterisation and I don't know, maybe it's my mood but he has the confidence to portray the most unsympathetic street rat as among the wisest people in the book. There is a theme within it that we cannot change, that the circumstances that we are born into will forever chain us, but he also shows that redemption is possible. The people from the wrong side of the tracks in Russos world would not be surprised at the current turn of events in our beautiful economic system.

As ever with Russo, the main themes are the small, imperfect lives of small town, flawed, but fundamentally decent people. He doesn't sugar coat the town, nor the people who reside within it and he doesn't ignore the tragic economic history which has left half the population poisoned. His basic humanity just shines through though, and you end up caring about these people, I still care about them, long after finishing the book, which, like the characters within it has a major flaw, not enough of a one to detract from the overall experience though.

An interview with Russo and an excerpt from the book here.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Hit The Road Jack

Brummie buggers: we are all thick.
When I moved to Cardiff, just short of 23 years ago, I had a job on the fruit and nut counter of a big department store in town and one day, when I asked a chap if I could help he and his Mrs beamed all over their faces and announced themselves as fellow Brummies. They said they had lived in Cardiff for 20 years and I thought, how strange. Funny how life turns out, innit?

I have never bought Mojo in my life, being too cool, obviously, for that old farts rag, until today, when the cover CD tempted me, and sticking it on in the car on the way home, the first track Skinhead Moonstomp convinced me that my money had been well spent. The rest of is is a bit shit though. Can you believe I can't find a decent link to Skinhead Moonstomp.

Blues reacquaint themselves with Steve Bruce tomorrow at the Wigan Library. We will moida da bums!

At the silly time of 11am on Sunday, on Channel 5 of all places, there is a programme devoted to the inspirations behind the music of trendy young folkies such as Seth Lakeman and Eliza Carty. Don't say you weren't told.