Archive | May 2012

I thought there was going to be Zombies!

Unlike my friends across the pond or those in the UK who can afford Sky TV I have had to wait what feels like an age for series 2 of The Walking Dead to appear on Channel 5. Whilst reviews of the show are generally positive and I love watching, I have one conern….ZOMBIES! The show seems to centre around relationships in the group and the tensions that appear when you are placed in an almost post-apocalyptic environment, however I am concerned about the lack of zombies. Not the lack of them being there per say, but the lack of any real zombie action. In fact the first three episodes of series 1 started like a Dawn of the Dead style action flick and I was hoping for me. I found the series turning more and more towards relationships with only the odd bit of zombie action. As the first series drew to a close it had disappointed me a bit. The second seemed to start in a similar fashion. Apart from a lot of zombies walking down a road and a few in a forest chasing a small girl there appeared to be very little action. Now I like a good sub plot and some intrigue but I also like some slashing, biting and excess gore and I don’t think you can have even a serious zombie story without that. That said, episodes 1 and 2 of series 2 is all that have aired at the point this is written and Shane and Otis are stuck in the abandoned school so I am hoping for some old school zombie action. All in all I am impressed with The Walking Dead but think the balance of story to zombie action is not quite right. That said, this might be the focus of the comics which I have not read. If so I feel the adaptation should take in the more action orientated genre of zombies in moving pictures. It’s not often I want style over substance but The Walking Dead is one exception to my rules, plus the zombies look amazing so lets use them a little more!

The England Squad

I am trying, really trying to get behind the new England manager but the FAs choice, and now his choice of squad, are baffling me. Without wanting to cause public outcry I would like to pick through the England squad and give my thoughts. For easy of use lets take a position at a time…

Goalkeepers –Well what can you say here? Joe Hart no. 1. Had to be. There is not other really good English keeper so it’s just who can you get. Hodgson has done well here.

Defence – A bold move to drop Ferdinand but the correct one I think. I have never really rated him, he makes too many mistakes and is not a leader like John Terry. Terry had to go for backbone but I think he should be on the bench. Glad to see Jones and Cahill in there as they should have the passion we need. I think Cole is a must and Glen Johnson deserves his place. Would have liked to see a little more youth and with the massive miss that is Kyle Walker maybe we could have had someone like Martin Kelly from Liverpool.

Midfield – So far so good, but this is where I feel it goes a little strange. We have had many a tournament with the old guard in place and not been successful. This is the first tournament we have been in for a while where the nation has no expectations. Would it not be a great time to introduce some youth? We know Lampard and Gerrard can not play together and both are aging. Lampard does not play well for England and Gerrard keeps getting injured. Would this not be the perfect time to drop them and look at someone others like Jay Spearing and Jack Colback? Further to this, the one thing we have an abundance on is fast midfielders. Arron Lennon does not have a look in where are Ashley Young and James Milner who have had rather uneventful seasons continue to get selected. It is almost as if Hodgson is scared to change the midfield.

Forwards – The strangest omission of all to me is Peter Crouch. He has the best international stats of all English strikers, is a constant threat, does not moan but gets on with his job and comes back to collect the ball a lot. Welbeck deserves to be there due to his work rate and Andy Carroll is improving and can offer a different dimension. My concern is with the other two, Jermain Defoe can’t get into the Tottenham side and when he does he does very little and Wayne Rooney has not played well for England for ages and is suspended for the first two games. Could we not have taken some youth or say, what the heck lets take Grant Holt, he’s done it for seasons for Norwich and it’s his last chance!

Standbys – The confusion continues. Yes Butland as there are not any other keepers and I can understand that Jagielka has played well in the past and can be relied on. But Henderson, Johnson and Sturridge have all had poor seasons. Atleast the others I mentioned (Kelly, Spearing, Colback, Lennon, Crouch and Holt) have had good seasons. Maybe even stick some more youth in there i.e. Fraiser Campbell, Danny Rose or Jonjo Shelvey.

In conclusion, whilst I will be hoping this squad does well and will be behind them 100% my concerns are that Hodgson has gone with the age-old formula. A formula which has yet to work. If we look elsewhere, the Italians pick players in form and the Germans build from youth and their youth systems. I worry that until we change our mentality we will continue to be the perennial underachievers.

Anyhow, rant over….COME ON ENGLAND!

Is there such a thing as a mature reader?

A recent situation has been puzzling me. One phrase I always seem to find true is ‘the book is better than the film’. In all bar one case I feel this is true. Dracula, The Damned United and Oliver Twist (ok that’s a musical version!) all paled in comparison to their more literary forms. However, after watch Lord of the Rings I could not stomach the intense waffle and drawn out explanations in the first book so decided to give up after getting half way through it. It was clearly the exception to the rule.

This first foray in Tolkien’s work had taken place when I was around 18 and the majority of my reading had consisted solely of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Novels. It was off the back of this disaster that I decided to look for another author and found the wonderfully written James Barclay books about the Raven mercenaries. Flash forward around 10 years and I decided to pick up Tolkien’s mammoth classic once again. This time I feel I understand the plot, get most of the messages behind the writing and am really enjoying it. At present I have passed where I stopped last time. The only really difference I can see is that since I left the book some 10 odd years ago I have read books by James Barclay, David Peace, Danny Wallace, Giles Kristian, Charlie Brooker and a whole host of other authors. Two of these have been classics in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, far from heavy going I found both books uplifting and suitably different from the run of the mill novels that get hammered out now. They felt new and invigorated me as a reader, strange then that they are so old.

Anyhow, back to the point. I feel that the temperament and focus that let me get through Oliver Twist and Dracula has continued, thus allowing me to enjoy Lord of the Rings. At the school I work in we have an accelerated reader program where books are based on your reading level, the pupils slowly work up these. I feel that I have unintentionally done this myself. So much so that when I look back at James Barclay books I do not hold so much affection for them. I have had the first part of his latest offering sat on my shelf for some time, every time I go for a new book it is unfortunately left behind. I am not saying that I now dislike Barclay’s books, far from it in fact. I just feel that I am a more mature reader and look to those books like I would a comedy panel show or something like Dr. Who or Merlin. Not trashy but not the intellectual fodder that I may want for at that time.

I am a great believe in the phrase ‘great writers read’. But to be able to read effectively I think you need to build yourself up. If great writers read, then so do great readers and great thinkers. I think there is such a thing as a mature reader and I worry that people who do not read regularly or only read something trashy and easy when on holiday could be dumbing down the potential of some authors. Whilst literary classic still hold sway and there are people willing to try them out then I feel books should be saved from become more than glorified comics (not to say there isn’t any fantastically written comics out there!). I just hope that in this computer age the Kindle will renew reading and not continue the slump as we need writers to not only be readers but mature readers that understand how to weave plot and characterisation and not give way to easy mass market appeal.

The Wings of Aysh-Karal

The Wings of Aysh-KaralThanks to my friend and buddy author James Camp (check out his site or buy some of his work for kindle) I decided to embark on a rather self-indulgent fantasy I have had for a while…..to write a novel. Due to work commitments it has taken me ages to even write anything, however I have upload the prologue and first two full chapters to wattpad. I’m not after money for the book, just some critical comments and views. Maybe if it’s really really good I might pop it on kindle…..and then someone will buy it and make a movie of it and I’ll live off the royalties! Haha, I can dream!

Anyhows, as I said it’s just a little project to make me feel good about myself. I will be updating with new chapters as I am writing them but don’t expect anything too soon. Saying that I am a bit of a way through chapter 4 and I do know exactly what will happen, it’s not just me flying on the seat of my pants!

More importantly, if you want to read it so far click here.

Stop thinking films are going to be good!

I have a new way of thinking about films, don’t expect too much before watching them. Since joining LoveFilm over a year ago I have filled my film list with those films that I did not think were worth paying cinema prices to see. What I am noticing is that I generally think one of two things. Either a, they are absolute rubbish and I wish I had never set my eyes upon them (aka Transformers Dark of the Moon, Clash of the Titans, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium) or b, they are absolutely brilliant (aka Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes, Puss in Boots, Rise of the Planet of the Apes). Actually looking at that list maybe it’s the Robert Downey Jr. effect! What I find more interesting is that I seem to enjoy these films more than those I am really looking forward to seeing at the cinema. Recently I took a trip to see Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists. I love the book and am a big fan of Aardman so was brimming with excitement to see it. After two weeks of convincing my wife to go with me I left with a strange melancholy. It was not that I disliked it, in fact far from that. It just wasnt quite as good as I expected. When I look back at those films I loved that I got off of LoveFilm I am not sure they are all as good as Pirates!. I would definitely watch Pirates! again where as I would happily live on without viewing Iron Man or Rise of the Planet of the Apes for a second time. It’s really all down to hype isn’t it? I went into the experience of those LoveFilm movies without expectations so they could only give a positive. My level for Pirates! was high to start with so a fall was more likely. It’s so obvious but so hard to change your thinking and curb that initial excitement. My new idea is to head into all films thinking they are going to be rubbish, then I can only either be right or happily proved wrong.

All hail the mighty double winners!

Image…and I’m not talking about any of your Manchester Uniteds, Inter Milans or Barcelonas.

There is only one team in town and that is the mighty Guernsey FC. Seriously now, well done to the team. To win the Combined Counties League Division 1 at the first time is a fantastic achievement, especially as the team were only established in 2011. But further to this the lads have won the Combine Counties Premier Challenge Cup which involved beating teams from the league above. And the manner of the victories were fantastic, over 100 goals scored!

I also think it was a wonderful way to answer all those critics who thought that forming Guernsey FC would destroy local football. For our league teams to beat Jersey league teams then our national team to be Jersey in the Muratti shows that Guernsey FC is only good for local football. Well lets hope it continues that way!

If you want more info on the Combined Counties Premier Challenge Cup win check out these videos.

For more information on Guernsey FC check out their site. Go on you know you want to!

COME ON YOU GREEN LIONS!

Would an appeal system work in football?

Sport seems to have a contensious relationship with technology. On one side we want to see atheletes showing their prowess on the field of play without computer aided technology affecting the original constitution of a game, on the other we want to see fair play and good winners and that is where technology helps. One sport where there seems to be a reluctance to use technology is football. In recent years we have seen referees and other offiicials make mistakes where players score offside goals, red cards are given for good tackles and bad tackles have gone unpunished along with the age old problem of has the ball crossed the line or not? Can football learn from other sports, particularly tennis and cricket, by having an appeal system?

Most people I have talked to (in general conversation, don’t think that I have done any research on the matter!) seem to think it would not. There seems to be an issue with the idea of a ball being dead. Systems such as hawkeye for seeing exactly where a ball is, snickometer for checking sounds and hotspot to see if there is a warm patch where a ball has hit could feasible be used (may snickometer and hotspot are a little far fetched for football!) but there is an argument as to when they do this. In tennis and cricket each section of play is pretty quick i.e. one rally or bowl and shot may only a take a few minutes. This means that the ball is dead quickly and an appeal can be made i.e. if one player/team thinks the decision is wrong then they ask for it to be checked, the ref or umpire refers to another official who checks a replay and then feeds back the decision. This can either keep the original decision or overturn the decision. The problem with football is that the game may continue. In the event that a ball has crossed a line and the ref decides it has not then play does not stop and the ball is not dead. The same can be said if a player is brought down in the box but the ref says ‘play on’. Whislt there are times in tennis or cricket when the ball is still live, these are generally few and far between. However, one solution could be the use of free kicks. If a team appeals that the ball has crossed the line and it has not on the video replay then the opposition gain a free kick, if they appeal that is should have been a penalty but the video reply is inconclusive the opposition get a free kick from the position of the penalty claim or if a penalty is awared and the appeal is successful then that team gets a free kick from the penality claim position. Obviously there are more times a free kick would be used but I could be writing all day if I carried on!

The problem here is the use of the appeal as some teams will just appeal to bide more time. This is where I think the tennis system of a of limted number of appeals is useful. If teams have, say, three appeals per match they would need to be careful about when they chose to use them. This in turn may garner more respect for refs, they can be seen as infalable as the system picks up these issues and if a team has been frivolous by using too many appeals at the beginning of a game and then miss a vital decision at the end because they cannot appeal then it is their fault and not the refs. What is clear here is that in a fast paced game like football the decisions would need to be quick and there would need to be clear rules about what happens after the final decision is made. For instance a free kick might not always be the best solution, if ball is out for a throw or not an appeal could be made and if overturned then that team would get a throw. The argument here being that appealing for a throw in might start to make the whole system a little too trivial.

The final peice of the puzzle is who decidies on the appeal. Obviously there is a captain on the pitch and they should be key, if any play can appeal then surely all appeals would be gone in the first ten minutes by irate players who are frustrate by a lack of skill or feel harshly done by for a minor issue. Bringing the manager in may slow down the game and thus using the captain gives them a more important role and makes their job more meaningful.

What is clear is that something needs to be done. Extra eyes on the far end of the pitch has been trialled in the Europa League and seems to have made little difference as those officials seem to not want to make a decision. Goal line technology may only alleviate one issue so an appeal system may be worth trialling. My only other concern is that one thing that makes football so intreaguing to me is the debates over decisions and that feeling of being unjustly disadvantaged. Sometimes that’s all us fans have to keep faith in our teams when they are playing particularly badly!