Thursday, September 29, 2005
I received a parcel I'd mail-ordered from Org Records about 4 weeks ago now. They're having a fantastic clearout, highlight of which was the Sunlounger album I'd been wanting for a while - the other seven I'm happy to regard as freebies at this price (£6!)
Also I was tempted into a few more from HMV... it started with a single by German EBM-type outfit L'ame Immortelle, but I also got Pitchshifter's PSI and The Stone Roses (£3.99 each) at the same time, since I wanted to use my new credit card...
I don't know if there's any easy way to see recent comments here. I haven't found it yet, and won't be trawling through all my old posts looking for them, so apologies if I fail to respond.
While I'm on the subject though, my earlier rant about Chelsea and predictability did lead to some comments when posted elsewhere. I think some of them misunderstood the main thrust, although in fairness others were right that it's perhaps a bit early to be too concerned. If Chelsea were to win three back-to-back titles though, I'd say that's unhealthy dominance - but we still have a way to go even for that.
Certainly enough people have been talking as though this season's Premiership is all but over already, and I would indeed be very surprised if anyone else won. You can see a related thread on BBC's 606 messageboard here.
Anyway, feedback always welcome. Particularly when I post more 'political' ideas up here - it may not surprise those who know me that the real thrust of the Chelsea rant was as much the political 'asides' as the comments ostensibly about football!
Well, against Chelsea, I think most teams would settle for 0-0, even at home. I'd certainly settle for a repeat Sunday, and in Europe that’s actually a fairly decent result – particularly in knockout stages (where away goals come into play)
Sky Sports statistics say each team only had one shot on goal, so as many predicted 0-0 written all over it. Still, that’s three games running where Chelsea have failed to score against us, even with Duff and Robben fit this time, they didn’t offer much. I was, in fact, quite relieved not to see Joe Cole, who’s proved our undoing before…
While we didn’t create much, beyond free kicks and a penalty shout or two (I can’t comment as I haven’t seen them), nor did Chelsea. It’s true Alonso could’ve had a second yellow card, but I thought the first was a bit harsh – and lets not forget so could Lampard and Makalele. (The former could’ve been booked first half for a late tackle on Gerrard, the latter blocked an Alonso free kick when already on a yellow)
We’re still head of the group for now, though it looks like the match at Stamford Bridge will decide who ultimately tops it – assuming the two British teams go through (which isn’t guaranteed, with Betis winning tonight)
Four more points from our two games against Anderlecht and I’ll be quite happy/confident – though, of course, two wins would be better… YNWA
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
There are three of us temps helping the permanent staff because it’s obviously their busy period – with over 3,000 new undergraduates starting in October, not to mention graduates, academics and visitors.
What’s quite worrying is how we were picked. We were given a simply test where we had 10 students’ names – deliberately horrible foreign ones – and had to enter them on a spreadsheet. That’s all, but apparently several more applicants were turned down for the job making five or six mistakes on that simple test – and these are all Oxford postgrads!
Mind you, having seen how inept some people are with forms, I’m not too surprised. I think we should make filling the form in correctly part of the entrance test – it’s not that difficult. Undergraduates even get their forms pre-printed, all they have to do is check the details, amend if necessary, and sign it.
In one college, I got three people (out of just over 100) who failed to sign it.
Another one that really annoys me is we don’t always have people’s full names. The form clearly says ‘all names in full’ so if we only have John Smith people should add middle names (if any). Some of them don’t do this, but then sign it John P. Smith. If I had my way, I’d send those forms back as incorrect… Even worse is when we have an initial, but they don’t supply the name. There was one guy who we only had a first initial for – D. Douglas, or whatever it was.
Normally we do have names, and people just have to correct if necessary. A quirk of the system means only the first ten letters are printed – so we miss the last letter of Christopher, Bartholomew, etc. In these cases, people have to add the missing letter and we update the record. Of course though, we can’t predict the strange spellings we get (Abegael, Alys, Cristoph, etc) so we have to assume (a) that people can spell their own names and (b) that forms they’ve sent are right. Even when it looks wrong, e.g. Miss Ffrench. If you don’t correct your own name, we can’t do it for you…
And then there are people who send in passport photos with headphones, hats and even in one case ski goggles! Or those who put a staple right through their face – that ends up on their cards, of course…
I’m sure a lot of our dates of birth are wrong, because Americans will write it 02/18/78 (for example). That’s obvious, but if they’re born in the first twelve days of a month it isn’t… Our undergrad forms purposely have DD/MMM/YY, e.g. 03 MAR 86. And we get people who write 03/005/86!
Ok, paperwork’s pretty horrible, but these are simple forms, and it amazes me how supposedly clever people make such a meal of it…
P = policeman
T = thief
D = dad
M = mother
B = boy
G = girl
> = to
OS = other side (destination)
BS = back to start
1 P + T > OS
2 P > BS
3 P + B > OS
4 P + T > BS
5 D + B > OS
6 D > BS
7 D + M > OS
8 M > BS
9 P + T > OS
10 D > BS
11 D + M > OS
12 M > BS
13 M + G > OS
14 P + T > BS
15 P + G > OS
16 P > BS
17 P + T > OS
Sunday, September 25, 2005
In the second half, it was Garcia who came off the bench and provided the necessary spark – as I’ve often suggested – and opened the scoring, proving he doesn’t just do it in the Champions League.
An unfortunate own goal from Warnock followed two minutes later by a Reina fumble gifted Birmingham an undeserved 2-1 lead. Sure they’d played better second half, but for us not to take anything from the game would’ve been criminal with Clapham twice clearing off the line, from Crouch and Garcia I think it was.
Thankfully debutant Kilkenny cleared another shot with his arm, and was promptly shown the red card – with substitute Cisse converting from the spot. Although he missed a good chance him, Cisse certainly gave us another attacking dimension when he came on – also laying on a good opportunity for Crouch to head wide. I’d have brought him on at half-time, because we were dominating midfield but not scoring, which has been our persistent problem this season.
Still, while it’s two points dropped, at the risk of sounding like a stuck record it’s another gained over last year – where Birmingham in fact did the double over us, winning at Anfield and St. Andrews – and in the contexts of the day’s other results (Man Utd losing to Blackburn, Arsenal being held by West Ham and Everton losing to Wigan) it’s not such a bad result. At least we showed some spirit to come back from 2-1 down, and could’ve gone on to win from there.
We’ll have to raise our game if we’re to get anything from Chelsea over the next two matches, but as ever I expect Rafa to ring some changes – probably bringing in Traore and Garcia…
Friday, September 23, 2005
Admittedly, he did have to pad things out with a few covers – including a hilarious poetry reading, ‘Sweet Child O’Mine’ by Axl Rose! – but his own songs are pretty good too. My favourites are the one about time travel (“take me back”) and “you think you’re the only panda in town?” I don’t know the real names, but I guess they’re named after the choruses…
Thursday, September 22, 2005
...listening to the new Seether album, Karma and Effect (Update: now reviewed here)
...wearing my pyjamas and dressing gown still!
Yes, bit of a quiet one today. Tonight though I'm going to see my friend Karl play guitar vocals at the Phoenix Bar, Walton Street, Oxford. Kind of an open mic night I think, except you have to book in advance. Anyway, I've heard him perform before, his own songs and covers, and he's good. The best is a love song about pandas...
I got Green Day Dookie, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club BRMC, Audio Bullys Ego War and Hybrid presents Y4k (mix album) for £3.99 each, and for £1.99 each Clarkesville The Half Chapter, Seafood When Do We Start Fighting (2CD), The Gathering Downfall – the early years, Five Pointe O Untitled, Cocteau Twins Blue Bell Knoll, JJ72 I To Sky, Antiproduct Made In USA, Moonspell The Antidote (Ltd edition) and Vega 4 Satellites.
(Links to Amazon - in case you haven't heard of the product, and to give you an idea how much I saved!)
As you can see, they were having a big clear out of random obscure stuff no one (else) has ever heard of. I was tempted to load up with more there, even lots I already had (like several copies of the first two JJ72 albums, Way Out West, etc) I really need to start using eBay or Amazon Marketplace or something - sure I can make a profit on some of those, bearing in mind there were albums I'd already bought (for £6-8) and thought I'd got a bargain at the time!
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Real bargain is Depeche Mode’s 2CD Singles 86-98 for just £3.99. Also amongst cheap old/80s stuff possibly worth a look are Public Image Limited, Soft Cell, Gang of Four and Adam Ant. Of course, sale staples like Led Zeppelin, The Cure, The Cult and Placebo are present and correct, and worth checking out if you don't already own their stuff by now.
Things I’d perhaps be tempted by include Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Audio Bullys, Faith No More, The Music, Dave Gahan, Lost Highway OST (home of NIN's 'A Perfect Drug') and maybe Faithless (or this one). Other notable bargains: Live, Dubstar, Chimaira, Chemical Brothers, Machine Head, Hard-Fi and Soulfly (tour edition).
How's that for mega-linkage? They'll probably all die when the sale ends, but there's my recommendations while they're cheap...
For the record, while I'm indoctrinating you with my musical tastes, favourites on my stero lately have been Ill Nino, Mew and Metallica. (Those links to Amazon. Reviews of the former two will appear on www.uk-fusion.com when I finish!)
Monday, September 19, 2005
Highlights of last night’s episode included a Tory spokesman on the leadership campaign stating that the problem with Ken Clarke was that he was only popular with the electorate and admitting the Tory membership were becoming part of British heritage – like Morris dancers.
The other bit was Charles Kennedy’s speech – I paraphrase – ‘After the election, I announced there’d be no review of Lib Dem policies. Three days later, I called a complete policy review. That’s what voters want – consistency, with the ability to change at any moment’.
Also funny was BBC 2’s Dead Ringers. Although I’ve seen the show in question three times now (it was a repeat), it was still relevant as the ‘ongoing’ Tory leadership came up again. Other highlights included Ozzy Osbourne’s real off-camera posh character [episode 4], the ‘Helen Mac Arthur’ yachtswoman movie and best of all their version of Gwen Stefani’s ‘What You Waiting For?’ video, with altered lyrics. (Sadly I can’t find this online, but you can original versions of her videos here)
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Critics will point out one goal from four games (and that a free kick against Sunderland) is a record low. It’s true Liverpool’s attacking play isn’t very fluent, which is disappointing given that we were regularly scoring three or four in pre-season games – where we generally played two up front – and not just against weak teams like TNS but Bayer Leverkusen and Olympiakos too!
All the same, I’m not too disappointed. Despite the much publicised need for a CB, and another new goalie who occasionally goes walkabout, we’ve kept four clean sheets. Sunderland aside, we’ve had three tough matches – away to Boro and Spurs – and we’re actually two points up against the equivalent matches last season (where we lost at home to Utd, and away to Boro)
I think the first thing Liverpool needed to do was make themselves much harder to beat. So far we’ve done that, now it’s just a matter of getting the three behind Crouch linking up well, and then hopefully we’ll see more of what we saw in the first half against Betis – i.e. chances and goals.
Six points from four games is less than we’d have wanted, but we’re level on points with Arsenal, and still haven’t conceded a goal, much less lost. If we can keep that up until we’ve faced Chelsea too, it’ll be pretty good. Far too early to be as negative as some critics have been – after all, if we’d got the deserved 1-0 win at Boro, then I think everyone would be pretty happy.
Sport thrives on excitement. Close-run matches, great fight-backs, last minute equalisers – these are the things that keep up levels of interest. They were epitomised by the recent Ashes, for example, where bar the first test all four matches were close, and it was this as much as the England win that generated interest. The opposite is predictability, and this is boring. This is why, unless a game is truly great, few would want to watch it again once they know the score/what happens – the excitement is lost.
We see this all the time. Scottish football, dominated by Rangers and Celtic, is generally viewed as pretty boring to those south of the border. Even Hibs manager Tony Mowbray expressed a similar need to break this two party duopoly on today's Football Focus (17/09/05). To the neutral, it’s much like an election – the ‘choice’ of Labour or Conservative, but the result is often predictable, and many would say they’re as bad as each other.
When there’s only one winner in it, things are even worse.
The complaint is NOT that Chelsea play boring football. Sometimes they’re defensive, at other times they play free-flowing attacking football with exciting players like Duff and Robben scoring lots of goals. I’ll leave this aside for now.
The problem is that, while they might lose the odd game (such as Man City last season), unless something dramatic happens, it’s hard to see them NOT winning the league for the foreseeable future.
Until this season, Formula 1 saw a similar problem – the almost unrivalled dominance of Michael Schumacher. I’ve always been something of an admirer. He is the best driver of his generation, and it’s always nice to see a quality driver secure deserved wins. While he can still show moments of driving brilliance, and we can still have exciting races (matches), when it’s so predictable who’ll come out top at the end of the season, a lot of fans are put off. (A view variously expressed here, here and here - though I admit there is some disagreement about just why the sport is boring, e.g. Villeneuve's comments on the lack of characters here)
This is what I see happening with Chelsea. Sure teams have been dominant before – Man Utd won a lot in the 90s, and Arsenal went the 2003-04 season unbeaten. These weren’t the same though – they were always close, you always thought at any moment they could lose. With Chelsea, you rarely feel that in most individual matches, and over the course of a season it seems unthinkable.
It’s the Schumacher problem again – yes, we like to see the best team win, but when it becomes so predictable as to be almost inevitable, the sport loses its excitement and appeal. Formula 1 eventually had to change the rules to break Ferrari’s stranglehold – what football will or can do, I can only guess.
I don’t think this is a phenomenon peculiar to sport. A contest with only one (possible) winner isn’t a contest. A two-party election, for example, is less of a contest than one in which a full range of viewpoints are adequately reflected, and stand a chance of winning. Since 1993, the misfortunes of the Conservative Party have been such that the only question in UK elections has been how much Labour will win by. It’s no wonder voters are as turned off as sports fans, and turnouts low. Predictability brings disillusionment – if things can’t be changed, why bother?
Maybe there’s nothing we can do about that short of drastic constitutional reforms – which would take a long time. It’s interesting to observe, though, that the ancient Greeks – who originated democracy – took equality so seriously that if anyone seemed too rich or powerful they were ostracised (exiled). While this obviously denied the community a powerful member, it was felt such imbalance distorted the whole.
When it comes to football, however, the FA is in a position to act. Maybe they’ll have to take a leaf from F1’s book, and change the rules. Salary/wage caps or required homegrown players, for example, might do something to restrict Chelsea’s dominance.
Others will say it’s unfair to change the rules and penalise success. Maybe it is, but unless something’s done the sport as a whole will suffer from predictability and lack of competition. This, not the style of game they play, is why Chelsea are bad for football.
Friday, September 16, 2005
On the other hand though, I had somewhat mixed emotions – as I had when Man Utd won in 1999 – because I generally support all English teams. Indeed, painful as it is to admit, Man Utd’s success is one of the reasons England were granted a 4th place, which was what allowed Liverpool to qualify last season, when they won. Since Liverpool won the UEFA Cup in 2001, British teams haven’t seemed to fare that well in the lesser competition. Everton’s result was, however, an embarrassment for English football.
And, if nothing else, I wanted them to stay in until Christmas so Everton supporters could see first hand how much two games a week can affect a team’s league form!
I can’t give a guide to the whole college, much less Oxford, but if anyone’s thinking of applying to Oxford they really should visit an open day. They may also want to read this guide I wrote… Good luck to anyone who is applying!
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
I think I'm coming down with something. With this in mind, I won’t be doing much today. I had a good lie in (10am), and will be sitting around, drinking lots of orange juice, listening to my latest CD – Hed Kandi 50 – and watching Lost tonight. For anyone who hasn’t seen Lost yet, you really should’ve been watching. I won’t go into more detail here, there’s plenty of stuff on the internet, including my review on the previous link.
Pass the tissues would you?
In short, Liverpool - with a surprising team including Josemi, Traore and Pongolle, but no Gerrard - were straight out the blocks: Pongolle scoring after just 87 seconds, and Garcia adding another 14 minutes later. Betis looked rather disorganised and, though they made some good chances, could've conceded more. In a reverse of that final in Istanbul, the second half turned against Liverpool, with Betis' attacking substitutions making them much more dangerous, and Liverpool were really hanging on at times.
I thought Garcia justified himself with his goal - the CL is obviously his favoured arena. I wasn't too surprised to see Josemi playing in Spain, as he's obviously not really adapted to the English game, but he still looked a bit of a liability. Nor was I surprised Traore was favoured at left back against Joaquin. Rafa obviously sees him as better than Warnock or Riise defensively, and with the pace and tackling to handle tricky wingers - hence he played against Chelsea and Milan in the latter stages last year, and is likely to line up against Man Utd's Ronaldo at the weekend.
The man who did most to justify himself was Pongolle. Not only did he score a great (if slightly flukey) goal, but he showed willingness to play where needed - down the right- run down balls and track back and tackle when needed. I still think Cisse's our biggest goal threat, but too often his chances are wasted, and if the ball doesn't run for him he's too quick to get frustrated and throw his hands up instead of trying to win it back. Don't get me wrong, I'm a Cisse fan and glad he stayed, but I see where he has to work on his game if he's to become a regular first choice under Rafa.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
The possible team's being discussed on the BBC messageboard here. For the record, I'd play Riise and Garcia, and I'd like to see Crouch and Cisse accommodated even if it is really a 4-5-1 with one of them breaking from midfield. It's probably more likely one of them will be on the bench, while we fill up midfield with Gerrard, Alonso and Sissoko though.
I'll let you know my thoughts after the game. YNWA.
Unfortunately I had to go to work at lunch, and at 127-5 it didn't look too hopeful. The best I was hoping was that KP and a spirited tail would take us close to 200 and the Aussies wouldn't have time to catch up... Was great to get home and find out we'd won.
Freddie Flintoff thoroughly deserves his man of the series award, and KP man of the match too. He'd been one of the least impressive for me throughout, dropping six catches and failing to shine with the bat, until that amazing 158. All the team deserve credit, however, for what they've achieved.
Particularly gratifying given the Aussies' over confidence, and pre-series talk of a 5-0 win. Let's hope next time the Aussies come here - without Warne and McGrath - maybe we can beat them 5-0...
Monday, September 12, 2005
That’s not what I’m going to talk about though. As promised, I’ll link to a review later. What I want to moan about is moshpits. Why do people flail around like they do? Some of the morons tonight were even doing flying kicks, like a martial art demonstration, rather than at a crowded gig.
I go to concerts to see bands. Not just to jump around to their music, I could do that in my room with my CDs. What’s the point of running about in circles and such, if it means you don’t even get to see much of the band, on a fairly rare chance to?
Similarly, I don’t see the point in people getting off their heads on drink and/or drugs. If you want to do it, fine – but again, do it down the pub or in your house, what’s the point in a great gig you don’t remember?
If these people were only spoiling their own enjoyment of the gig, there’d be no justification for stopping them – or, indeed, me telling them how to enjoy themselves. The fact is, however, they endanger other gig-goers, and spoil their fun. I don’t want to be punched/kicked in the head, and I certainly don’t want to be stabbed by piercing or hit by cigarettes. I want to be able to see and hear the band, without having to constantly worry about such dangers, or be looking over my head for crowd-surfers, rather than watching the stage.
It may sound like I want rather too extensive legislation here, interfering with people’s actions down to the ways they enjoy themselves. However, I do not say such conduct should be banned by law – that would likely be unworkable anyway – I rather implore such people to be more considerate in their conduct.
For the record though, not only is all conduct in a public place potentially liable to regulation, but I think legislation (if workable) would be in conformity to Mill’s famous liberal statement, the harm principle:
“...the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others... He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right...The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others.”
I would not prohibit violent moshing because I find it distasteful, or simply see it as the wrong way to enjoy a gig. Rather, it interferes with others – both hampering their enjoyment, and risking direct physical harm. Since I see no value in such conduct – there are plentiful other ways for those concerned to exorcise their testosterone/anger that don’t impinge on others – there’s no principled reason why it shouldn’t be legislated.
I warned you about incursions into political theory didn’t I? Suffice to say I not only dislike violent moshpits, but think my attitude a justifiable one rather than a mere personal preference.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Saturday, September 10, 2005
How often I'll update this, I don't know, but it's unlikely to be more than stumbling and experimentation for a while. After that (if all goes well) I might start voicing my opinions.
I'm currently starting a D.Phil (=PhD) in Political Philosophy at Oxford University, so perhaps some opinions in that field. Also on news, sport, music and current events generally and my life.
I wonder why anyone would want to read that?