Archive for the 'Stuff what goes on in my head' Category

Please can somebody make this into a TV programme?

Pride and Prejudice. But with zombies.

zombies

If it’s successful, it could open up a whole series. There are very few classic novels I can think of that wouldn’t be improved by zombies.

(HT: Matthew)

PS If you’ve not guessed, I’m insanely busy at the moment with a few work projects. Sadly no zombies involved. Normal death-of-media-and-Twitter postings should be resumed next week at some point.

Got me a movie, I want you to know

*Warning. Possibly incestuous London-Twitter-event-related post that’s probably of limited interest to regular readers who a) aren’t in London and b) don’t care about Twitter. For those, here’s an amusing cartoon of a cat to compensate for spending 4.57 seconds reading this preamble*

There’s plenty of London-based Twitter meetups (or Twit-ups, if you like): The Twestival, the Shoreditch Twit, the Dirty South Twit and probably a few others I don’t know about. Mostly, the involve chatting and drinking, meeting new friends, and generally having a good time.

Here’s an idea for a slightly different kind of Twit-up that has literally popped into my brain within the last hour. I’ve no idea how feasible it is, or if anybody would be interested, but I think it’s cool, so I’m blogging about it. Because that’s what bloggers do. We’re nothing if not self-obsessed and narcissistic.

The idea: A Twitter Film Club. Or Twitflix, as Ben suggested.

The premise: it’d be a bit like a book club. But with films. Once a month, give or take a few days or weeks here or here, films fans on Twitter meet up somewhere, probably in central London, maybe in a pub with a big screen, to watch a classic film, have a few drinks, then chat about it. And that’s about it really.

Well, maybe it could go a bit further. Maybe Twitflix could set up a blog or something where the screenings could be announced and then everybody could discuss the film, and the themes and whatnot and suggest further viewing of a similar nature.

I dunno, maybe it could ever be done on a Sunday afternoon, over a few pints, fitting in two showings of two films with similar themes and we could compare and contrast or something – films like, perhaps, The Conversation and The Lives of Others. Or American History X and This Is England. Or Heathers and Mean Girls. Or Sunset Boulevard and Barton Fink. Or Kind Hearts and Coronets and Dr. Strangelove (mainly because they’re both black comedies and have an actor playing a multiple role – other than that, it’s a little tenuous…).

Anyway, I’m just thinking (writing) off the top of my head here. I genuinely have no idea how feasible this is, or if anybody would be interested. It only popped into my mind as an idea as I was idly thinking of classic films I’d not yet watched.

Rambling idea over. Any takers?

(Remember, the first rule of film club is that you don’t talk about film club. The second rule of film club is… you do not talk about… wait I’ve got that wrong… [Pulls out piece of paper] The second rule is, no smoking.)

Foreign players and markets

Earlier today, on an Exeter City mailing list I subscribe to (yes, such things exist), Mike Blackstone posed the following question:

“What if the only players who were allowed to play in the Premier and Football  League were to be born in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern ireland  and the Republic of ireland? Would this not make the respective  international teams stronger (eventually) as more home grown players
came through the ranks?”

I started replying, the realised it was turning into an epic consideration of all things foreign, football politics, and quite possibly ill-thought through economics of the sport. So, what the hell, I’ll post it on here.

Normally this would go over onto Soccerlens, but it’s very much a work in progress and I’d be interested for other people to throw their own views in here, as I’ve undoubtedly missed a few things or there’s a stunningly good argument to demolish one, or all, of the points. It might get shaped into some kind of article in coming weeks. Possibly.

Here, in all its unrefined glory (or lack of) is my answer to Mike’s question:

***

To go back to Mike’s original question, I think it would make more players available for the teams, but may not necessarily make it stronger. Ok, so there may be more players to chose from, but that won’t help if all the players are of a lower standard than the foreign players they replace. It will weaken the league and, in the long run, damage the international teams, no matter how good the short-term measure would be.

Blaming the foreign influx is an easy way to see a solution to the perceived problem, but there are wider underlying issues here that aren’t the fault of foreign players.

1. First of all, foreign players have benefitted the league. Having world class players like Henry, Cantona, Zola, Bergkamp, etc compete in England has made the league more attractive to advertisers and sponsorship and has resulted in more money flowing in. That clubs lower down have not benefitted from this cash is due to the Premier League and the FA, not foreigners.

2. Players such as Henry et al have provided inspiration for youngsters today to take up the game, and have given our game something different. Previously a player such as, say, Matthew Le Tissier, wasn’t fancied at international level despite being one of the nearest things we had to a continetal playmaker like Totti or Cantona. Now there’s much more of an appreciation of the different types of skills and players and such role models can only be good for the British game. Look at the likes of Aaron Ramsey – he could be that type of player in a few years time. Fifteen years ago, he’d have probably been discarded in favour of a workhorse who would put in energy and muscle but not as much skill.

3. The failure to bring through a generation of younger players is, again, down to the FA and the Premier League. By abandoning the idea of a national centre at Burton, there was no focal point and incentive for PL clubs to invest in their own homegrown talent – indeed, PL clubs weren’t overly fond of the FA taking off their brightest young talents on a regular basis. Owen, Joe Cole and others went through the old FA schools. Reviving Burton will give us a better chance at training and indentifying promising youngsters.

As an aside, the whole system of training our children is probably flawed. The emphasis is on putting them into a position as early as possible, stick to it, and win at all costs from a very early age. Other countries encourage children to play on all positions in non-competitive games in their pre-teen years. That way youngsters can enjoy the game without the pressure of having to win, and develop an apprecation of what their colleagues on the pitch can do, as well as enhancing skills they would not have got had they simply played as a striker week in week out.

4. The strength of our economy over recent years has played a part. Foreign players have an incentive to move here because they will often earn more than in their home countires due to the strength of the pound. Their wage demand and cost would be less than British players, so clubs would go for the cheap option. Although, there’s also a part of this whereby clubs have thought with short-term goals, seen the success of Cantona, Zola and Henry (and some of the players to progress through Arsenal’s ranks) and have tried to do the same, albeit on a cut-price level in line with their budgets. They were cheaper than British players to bring through.

5. By the same token, British players, for whatever reason, have been reluctant to move abroad. Part of this is to do with the inflated wealth whereby they can get more for bench-warming in the Premiership than playing football abroad in a country where the currency is weaker. Also, there’s a slightly suspicious attitude of Brits playing abroad, probably scarred by past experiences. Owen Hargreaves was widely assumed to be no good for a long period of time, despite a successful career at one of Germany’s biggest clubs. This also gave him a slightly different footballing education and exposure to a different style of play. Who is to say that, for example, Justin Hoyte, wouldn’t have been better served by going to Hamburg or PSV rather than Middlesbrough? As has been pointed out, we have a large flow of foreigners coming into this league, but very few going in the opposite direction. A more even import-export ratio of players would benefit British teams.

6. In the midst of all this, you have bad decision making, both from the clubs individually and the governing bodies. No matter how many rules and regulations you put in place, you can’t legislate for businesses making mistakes by buying bad players or overspending so they can only afford cheap foreign imports, and nor should you. Plus, nothing can ever account for Steve McClaren.

7.  Supporters too have their part to play in the current state of affairs. By wanting success instantaneously, they’re less willing to see a club spend time on developing and blooding younger players. Take Theo Walcott – wonder boy at 17, written-off at 18 when he hardly played, now seen as a key player to Arsenal and a huge blow when injured. Less single-minded managers than Wenger may not have given Walcott the time and patience he needed to develop. A medium-name foreign signing comes with little baggage and may temporarily appease fans, regardless of his ability.

8. As with most markets, this process is circular. Cycles come and go, and we may well see with the credit crunch, a return to home-grown players. With the pound a lot weaker in recent years, foreign players may find they’re better served with their careers abroad. Some British players may also decide abroad is the best option. Similarly, clubs that have kept faith in their youth acaemdies, such as Exeter and the likes of Villa in the Premiership, are now starting to reap the benefits with their long-term attitude. In this credit crunch era, with less cash available, many clubs may well start to look at those teams that are successfully bringing through young players and see it as the solution to cutting costs (and external pressures, such as the constant debates on foreigners, may convince clubs its politik to have more home-grown players).

Conclusion: Football is a business, like any other (but also one that does spend a lot of time operating outside the parameters of what most reasonable businesses do) and has now moved into a much more globalised world. This has benefitted the quality of football, globally, as a whole and the Premier League as a market leader in this product. Much of the problems with foreign players can be explained by markets – having restrictions on the market in the form of home-grown only players (short-term protectionism) won’t work in the long-term, no matter how attractive a solution it may seem now.

We’re moving onto another cycle of the market in footballers and this should even out over the next 12 months. English football currently appears to have the best available man for the job in the post who brings a different sensibility to the game and, you suspect, wouldn’t dismiss players from his plans if, say, they moved abroad.

I’m actually pretty optimistic about the long-term future of English future in this current climate. And, yes, looking at the current crop of Welsh players emerging, I’m actually quite optimistic about our chances for Euro 2012 as well.

Let the bells ring out for Christmas

The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York is the best Christmas song ever. That can never be disputed. But what of the second-best?

There’s been some Christmas classics over the years but it’s hard not to wish they (whoever THEY may be) would add a few different tracks to the annual Christmas compilation albums. There’s only so many times you can hear Slade before it starts to get a tad grating.

So, I’d like to humbly suggest a revival of this Christmas-related classic from the wonderful Saint Etienne featuring Tim Burgess: I Was Born On Christmas Day

In fact, just go back and listen to the entire Saint Etienne back catalogue. You’ll thank me for it.

Any other suggestions for criminally underlooked Christmas songs? Fountains of Wayne’s I Want An Alien For Christmas anybody?

Ways to improve the world, number 32 in an occasional series

Rather than having a loud, piercing, shrill ‘eeee-oowwww’ nose for the firm alarm that everybody just covers their ears and ignores unless somebody rungs through the office on fire, replace it with a piece on Ennio Morricone music. Preferably The Man With The Harmonica – the bit that announces Charles Bronson’s character in Once Upon A Time In The West.

The palpable sense of menace would have everybody sitting up on edge in the knowledge something very nasty was about to happen in about 20 frames time. There’d be no panic either, as people would make their way slowly, quietly and nervously to the emergency exits with the haunting tones of menace in their ears.

If Charles Bronson could be employed to appear for genuine fires, that would ensure everybody knew things were serious.

I may be slightly too in thrall to spaghetti westerns.

It only takes a minute

I blame Abba. Or perhaps Buddy Holly. Ben Elton’s definitely getting some of it as well. Ever since some bright spark had the idea of mixing well known pop music with stage musicals, the hen weekend market suddenly found a whole host of new options. There’s definitely blame in there somewhere, because gosh darn it, we live in a blame society and I want to blame somebody for Never Forget – otherwise known as the Take That musical.

This type of theatre is something I’d normally sprint across hot coals to avoid but the offer of free tickets and the odd idea that I should really try to step out of my comfort zone on occasions and perhaps try something I’d normally turn my nose up at led me to the Savoy Theatre on a Friday evening.

As with a first date that’s not going well, let’s get the niceties out of the way first. Never Forget is by no means awful. There’s a lot of energy, some nice 90s boyband jokes (“at the moment you lot aren’t even 911”), and it has some genuinely funny moments. It’s certainly passable if you’re the target audience. Sadly, I’m not really the target audience and if it wants to achieve the success it needs to somehow transcend the hen-weekend audience.

And that hen-weekend appeal is also part of the problem. There’s so many shows like this on the market that the script and show need to sparkle. It can be as ropey, plot-wise, as it likes as long as you get a chance to completely immerse yourself in the world.

The are weird elements that don’t quite sit with each other. The Manchester setting makes you feel like you’re watching a hyper-real episode of Corrie on occasions. There’s also plenty of references to chavs, the tribute band circuit, tacky clubs and the general awfulness of working class nightlife, but it pales in comparison to, say, Benidorm, which is much more sharply observed in this area. And the Northern tribute act storyline was done so much better in the wonderful Little Voice, while the Full Monty also looms in the background. It pulls in all of these elements but only serves to remind you how good some of these possible inspirations are.

So Never Forget falls back on the songs, and while the best-known Take That songs will always get the audience clapping in the aisles, weirdly it’s like you’re watching a poor Take That tribute band trying too hard, and at this point postmodernist theory probably gets a very bad headache and decides to decamp to the pub for a pint and a packet of crisps to try and work out what the hell its just seen.

It might be a bit cheaper and easier to get to than watching the real Take That live but then there are also plenty of decent tribute bands doing the circuit that are a lot cheaper, which leads to a question that should trouble all productions of a similar ilk: just what has Never Forget – or similar shows – got that the alternatives haven’t?

It’s a problem that really seems to afflict any kind of entertainment package – be it theatre, music, film, or TV – that attempts to leap onto another medium. It just jars badly outside of its natural habitat because we’re too familiar with the original source material.

Never Forget might have worked better on screen than stage. After all, there are plenty of classic musicals than have storylines that could easily be grouped with it – A Star Is Born and Singing In The Rain spring to mind – and in the hands of somebody like Busby Berkeley or Vincente Minelli it could have been a visual treat on celluloid. Even Scorsese’s Happy Endings, the spoof musical within his New York New York, worked far better than these kind of shows.

It’s a bit of a two way process though. Chicago has been one of the best musical adaptations for the big screen in recent years but even that felt far too stagebound. Sweeny Todd did a decent job, largely because it had the unmistakable feel of a Tim Burton film and an excellent cast. The Producers, however, just felt like a stage performance on the screen and was a pale imitation of the original source material.

With the exception of The Producers, though, these films feel like somebody has put effort in. Something like Never Forget, and to a certain extent forerunners like We Will Rock You, feels lazy – like bolting on whatever they can find to something that’s already popular, safe in the knowledge there’s a decent enough fanbase out there who’ll come and see it regardless of what kind of job has been done. Grease may be a cheese-fest but its light years ahead compared to today’s current new musicals, both on stage and screen.

With all this lazy-musical love in, you’d think audiences would be prepared to tolerate more musicals on the big screen, but Sweeny Todd seems to indicate otherwise, and other forays into this genre have been largely disappointing.

Still, there’s no doubt money to be made from this. Got a successful film that involves a bit of dancing (“Billy Elliot”) – make it into a musical. Got a popular culture figure (Beckham)? Make a musical around it. It almost feels that, in this day and age, if you were to propose Brass Eye’s Sutcliffe: The Musical somebody would snap it up.

With that in mind, I’m proposing a musical built around The Smiths & Morrissey. Given real-life events, it’d probably be called We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful and the big love number would probably be You’re The One For Me, Fatty, Bigmouth Strikes Again or Girlfriend in a Coma. I’ve no idea what the plot would be, but it’d be as anti-musical as you could get, yet still be a music. Panic! would obviously be the choice of music for the obligatory nightclub scene, while Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now and How Soon Is Now were built for those lonely solo numbers. In fact, much of the show could be made up of lonely solo numbers. The final song would have to be There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.

I’m not quite sure how I’d work Meat Is Murder into it, but I’d like to think La Mozzfather himself would raise a wry smile. Now, who wants to be a Max Bialystock and invest in this?

We interrupt this blog for a quick broadcast by your local garden centre

My mother would have been so proud. A few weeks ago, I strimmed my back garden (no, that’s not a euphemism). According to housemates, it hadn’t been touched for about a year and, during that time, may have been home to an ecosystem of ultra-tiny people.

But no longer.

After stepping out into the back garden and finding the grass and other miscellaneous green objects coming up to my knees, the strimmer was removed from hibernation and about three-quarters of the garden was culled before I ran out of strimmer wire. I may have committed genocide in the process, I’m not sure. I’m now committed to a summer-long programme of strim ‘n’ mow. Frankly, I’m paying more attention to my back garden (I said quiet at the back) than I am to my gym programme.

Anyway, my mother. Both parents have always been green-fingered – my dad has a significant vegetable plot while my mother can name just about every flower ever discovered. Their garden in Devon is the model of sustainability and colour. To be honest, if there was ever a nuclear apocalypse I’m moving back to the countryside, as I won’t die of starvation.

Well, that and the fact I’d have no real use in a post-nuclear apocalyptic society. “What can you do?” “I’m good with Web 2.0 stuff and I can string a sentence together.” “We have no internet now and sentences are not necessary. You will be eaten so we can survive.”

You can see why I’d move back to Devon. I don’t want to get eaten.

Anyway, my parents. They’ve always tried to gently push me towards horticulture but I’ve so far resisted. It’s taken my back garden turning into the amazon rainforest to get me to this stage.

Once I put the strimmer down (and if you want a way to inwardly reassert your masculinity, I can recommend it) I surveyed my wreckage kingdom work and thought to myself: “If, in the unlikely even I ever earn enough to buy a house in London, I’d like to do a bit of work on this. Make it…. habitable.”

And lo, in front of my eyes, there was a bit more patio (or patio without grass growing out the middle), the whole garden was landscaped and there were beds with flowers that my mother would probably know the name of, and on the other side a few herbs and some lettuces and other vegetables that I don’t know how to grow and would, in all probability, kill before they had a chance to grow.

Actually, I’ve talked about growing a lettuce before so it’s not the strangest idea that’s come out of my head in the past twelve months. That would be the idea of Celebrity Dogs on Ice developed by myself and my old housemate.

But this time… this time, I may actually go through with it. I’d quite like a nice garden, and I’d like to try and be a bit more self-sustaining, even if that’s only growing lettuces for the occasional egg sarnie, and corriander, and maybe a bit of rosemary.

But there’s one small snag to my plan for garden domination. Or rather six snags.

For as long as I’ve been living in this house, we’ve shared it with a fox. As foxes go, it won’t win any competitions, but we didn’t bother it and it didn’t bother us, which suited everybody. But, as with so many of these comfortable domestic arrangements, the issue of sex eventually caused friction.

Yes, the fox got itself a boyfriend or girlfriend and now our garden is home to four fox cubs. They’re four very cute fox cubs, but I’m not entirely over the moon at sharing my garden and the potential lettuce patch with four cute fox cubs and their mum and dad.

Thus far my options, as far as internet research goes, appear to be limited. The three most popular options appear to be shooting it, calling in the local hunt (which I’m sure would go down well in a terraced street) and pissing in your own garden to repel the fox. My neighbours already think I’m strange. I don’t want to give them further ammunition.

So, we’re currently in a stand off. The fox family on one side and me and my nonexistent lettuce patch on the other. At the moment there’s no clear winner.


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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com