Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Show-boating and football cynicism

Awana Diab is probably a name you haven’t come across in footballing circles before, probably because he’s a United Arab Emirates international, but following this cheeky penalty, hopefully it will become a more recognised name…

Brilliant! A wonderful piece of bonkers show-boating. Totally unnecessary (as is the case with most show-boating), but it does show up the Lebanese keeper for being a gormless twonk from the Robert Green School of clown-handed mishaps, which always makes for a delightful chuckle. However, rather than bask in the silliness of it all, Diab was booked after taking the penalty (presumably for bringing the game into disrepute), his manager substituted him right after and now the UAE FA are thinking about throwing the book at him, owing to the penalty being seen as slightly disrespectful.

Now is it just me, or is that a slight over-reaction? Sure, at 5-2 up it does have all the hallmarks of rubbing it in, but then the jubilant celebrations of someone tapping in from two-yards also smack of rubbing it in. In a sport geared to having winners and losers at any cost one can never get away from the art of taunting your opponent’s by making them look foolish. It’s something that cannot (and should not) be eradicated from the game. Firstly, it’s fun. Secondly, as players you walk off the pitch at the end of the match and shake hands with your opponents all in the knowledge that taking the piss is part of football’s long enduring history. If you boo about it like a big sissy, then fuck off and take up another sport. Like hockey…

It’s a shame as the actions of the UAE FA may curtail the character of a player that seems to have, well, a bit of character. The Maradonas, Valderammas, Higuitas, Mourinhos, Gascoignes, of the game are what frequently make it so entertaining. Alas, there seem to be a lack of such personalities in football at the moment, replaced by far too many stilted automatons programmed to talk shit of the highest order (see John Terry) or to dive at every given opportunity. At least Diab has a little individual flair about him – let’s not persecute him for that!

Did anyone complain about Johann Cruyff’s penalty for Ajax way back when?

Did they bollocks. Because it’s genius! Diab’s goal may not be quite the same level of genius, but have things really changed so much that Cruyff’s penalty should now be considered disrespectful? Because I see no relative difference between either and, importantly, neither break any of the laws regarding the taking of a penalty. These dreadful sensibilities of the footballing authorities, directed by a bunch of money-making shit merchants at FIFA that have more self interest in personal gain that the interests of football, are slowly strangling the game into submission. No personality, no flair, no style. No wonder the 2010 World Cup was a shit awful competition to watch.

Anyway, if the keeper had saved the penalty, rather than doing his best take on a startled hedgehog between headlights, all the above would be moot. The useless waster…

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Prison Break in contrived bollocks shocker!

One of the many great things about parenthood is that you stop going out of an evening and, by that virtue, can finally catch up on all the great TV shows you’ve missed over the previous years whilst out on the piss. Sure, it’s easy enough to bounce in and out of the likes of Big Bang Theory, Family Guy and South Park on a whim, but anything with a story arc has to be watched continually from beginning to end to ensure nothing central to the story is missed. Otherwise what’s the point? So, of late I’ve finally managed to start working my way through the first season of Prison Break, a whole millennia after everyone else has seen it!

Now, I’m particularly chuffed that I’ve managed to avoid any inconvenient spoilers related to the show in the intervening years, as it has ensured the major surprises have so far been pretty shocking. As such Prison Break has made for some compelling and gripping viewing, whilst staying true to its contrived roots. Yes, that’s right; in order to generate the requisite entertainment and tension to keep the audience watching, the plotting has to be a little flimsy at best when it comes to realism. Any prison worth its salt would have found the hole behind the toilet by episode seven, and if you think about it for more than a nano-second you’d be left wondering at how the general incompetence of the COs at Fox River have ensured that no one had previously managed a successful breakout. Its complete bobbins (just look at Schofield’s blueprints for crying out loud) of the highest order, but because it’s so fantastically entertaining you couldn’t really give a hoot about the convenient way everything gradually falls into place. It’s a necessity one just accepts.

Well, except for one scene in episode 13, which almost ruins the whole shebang by being a little too unbelievable. This is the episode where Schofield’s crew attempt their first escape using the tunnel to the storeroom under infirmary, only to be denied by the installation of a new air filter system, replacing the one Schofield had eroded away with his acid toothpaste, making access to the infirmary impossible via this route. Earlier in the episode a cleaner had noted the damage to the vent cover in the infirmary with suspicion. 

So, what’s the big deal? Well, the big fucking deal is what a bunch of incongruous scripting bullshit! Do they really expect us to believe that said cleaner would, firstly, remember to report the damage of the vent to his superiors before taking his next tea break; secondly, that some workshy slacker of a handyman would actually get off his arse from a tea break and fix the damn thing before the end of the day; and, thirdly, that said handyman would do anything close to a competent job? Do they take us for idiots? Look, there’s implausibility and then there’s implausibility.

Back in the really, real world, the disabled toilets on the floor of my office have been out of commission for the last six months, with only a note saying that the part to fix the toilet is waiting to be delivered (my arse). Where in the Megaverse are they ordering this part from that it takes more than six months to arrive? Not only that, there's a constant whirring noise from the air conditioning that our facilities team seem unable to fix. They bang the ceiling where the sound seems to be coming from with a spanner, but that's about as effective as plugging the hole in the Titanic with a piece of band aid. Plus it takes them at least three days to get round to inspecting the noise being made, by which time it's driven at least one person insane that they've blugeoned the rest of the office to death with a plastic spoon. General handymen = inept, workshy slackers!

Look, it's not like I don't appreciate silly, daft and unrealistic things in TV shows and movies. I rate Crank 2, Shoot 'Em Up and Hard Boiled highly as stupidly excessive action flicks, but the suggestion that the facilities team of Fox River Penitentiary could even be close to denying Schofield and chums from excaping is clearly unfeasible. For one thing, Schofield and chums are on PI and would be the ones to fix the blasted thing in the first place! Do you see any other general handmen in the show but for the prisoners? Do you bollocks. In this instance the mind of the script-monkey couldn't think of anything better than a reliable facilities service to help stretch the series out for another 11 episodes of convoluted escape shenanigans. Incredulous, I know and it very near sinks the whole programme.

 Oh well, at least they haven't done a flashback or musical episode yet... 

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Free Speech for the Dumb!

On the way to work this morning I was listening to Metallica’s cover of Discharge’s ‘Free Speech for the Dumb’ which, given the current hacking allegations made against the News of the World, seems particularly serendipitous. Let’s take a look at the lyrics:

‘Free speech, free speech for the dumb
Free speech, free speech for the dumb
Free speech, free speech for the dumb
Free fucking speech

Free speech, free speech for the dumb
Free speech, free speech for the dumb
Free speech, free speech for the dumb
Free fucking speech.’

Salient and to the point. Now, it could just be a clever play on words regarding selective mutism, but for the purposes of making a point against shit journalism let’s instead consider that dumb in this context means ‘morons’. Free speech for the dumb could in many ways be the News of the Worlds theme tune, what with three million muppets tuning in every Sunday for its shallow celebrity based gossip, fake sheikh stings and wanky football articles attempting to vindicate themselves as ‘news’. But hey, that’s the rub with free speech. Write about anything or anybody you like, without any basis of fact or knowledge, advocate your right to the freedom of opinion and expression without interference, and let the people that want to read such bobbins buy the paper. Three million people? That’s quite a few morons…

Still, I’m guessing the News of the World also presume such rights and freedoms of the press allow for using any means to get a story, hence the low of paparazzi laying in the gutters to get the best beaver shot or, shock horror, being completely morally repugnant and hacking the phone of Milly Dowler. Sure, former editors and News International are denying all knowledge crying ‘it wasn’t me’ and will likely cough up the obligatory scapegoats, but the real problem lies at the heart of the current practice and mechanisms of the organisation. If fairly reproachable methods to get a story already exist, are frequently used and are encouraged within the system, it’s unlikely anyone would bat an eyelid at the suggestion of using phone-tapping as an acceptable means of acquiring and generating ‘news’. News International and the editors in question may not have sanctioned or even knew about any hacking taking place, but they are indirectly responsible for breeding an environment that generates factoids and encourages free speech for the dumb devoid of journalistic integrity that would allow for such practice to occur in the first place.

So, will News International amend their current methods and act with greater integrity? Fuck no. With the Master of Puppets in control, it’s likely the abuse of free speech will continue to mangle the fabric of reality. Is censorship an alternative option? Alas, it’s not a necessary, necessary evil and encroaches far too much on essential civil liberties that would also be open to abuse. We can’t always just shut-up people we don’t agree with. What is required, perhaps, is a half-way house between the two mutually opposed concepts; tougher regulations on the press articulating the boundaries of acceptability, both in the practices applied to news-gathering and the dissemination of falsehoods, where the necessary hung, drawn and quartering are applied to any twonk that breaks these central tenets. Pipe-dream? Pretty much, especially with David Cameron’s frequent bumming of Rupert Murdoch (so what if it’s not true – let’s Fight Fire with Fire)!

The best we’ll probably get is the BBC doing their best to undermine Murdoch’s media empire and a few good eggs doing their best to scupper Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB until the deal is reviewed by the Competitions commission, like this place:

Until then, the concept of freedom of speech will continue to be bastardised and seen as overrated and harmful by its detractors. Let’s hope at the very least that the current hacking allegations allow for a large proportion of the three million readers of the News of the World to finally wake up and read Viz instead…

Monday, 4 July 2011

Michael Bolton... rocks!

It’s really not all that appropriate to rank your parents in order of awesomeness – after all, you are merely the sum of both their parts following a quickie fumble on the dining room table - yet when it comes to musical influences I’m pretty glad my genetic inheritance opted for my Dad’s taste in things. Sure, he hasn’t listened to any new music since 1991 and is thoroughly set in his ways (I brought him Biffy Clyro’s latest album for Christmas; he booted me out of his house), but through his very narrow scope of the music arena I’ve come to appreciate the quality of quite a few decent bands and artists. The Beatles, Queen, Bowie and the like all featured quite highly in the old man’s album/CD collection, for which I’m particularly grateful.

My Mum’s taste in music was fucking horrific though. Michael Bolton, Richard Marx, Glenn Medeiros, Phil Collins, Bryan Adams and their pissy soft-rock love ballads have been ruthlessly etched to my brain for all eternity. Even now I’ve got Hazard playing away in the back of my mind… “I swear I left her by the river, I swear I left her safe and sound”. The sound of someone singing through gritted teeth as if they were pissing out razor blades; please, kill me now! So the likelihood of me ever suggesting that shaggy-haired crooner Michael Bolton could ever, conceivably, rock was pretty much a non-starter.

However, when evidence is proffered that proves otherwise, I’ll usually (begrudgingly) hold up my hand and admit that for once I’m wrong. So, thanks to The Lonely Island (regulars who appeared on Saturday Night Live for the uninitiated), creators of parody music videos, I’ve had to reframe my assessment of Michael Bolton. Now, this isn’t because The Lonely Island are really, really good or anything. They’re no Flight of the Conchords, Tenacious D, Weird Al Yankovich or Monty Python for instance, mostly because their R’n’B and hip-hop schtick is slightly… well, shit, yet the following video of theirs is genius just for Michael Bolton as the guest vocal. Seriously, watch it, cry with laughter and then join me in regaling Michael Bolton as not quite as hideously awful as I had originally conceived. If anything, I never thought I’d hear Michael Bolton quote something from Scarface with such chilling authenticity, or do such a good job of looking better than Johnny Depp in outlandish pirate garb!

Oh, Michael, how did I ever manage to live without you…

(Kill. Me. Now. Please!)