Tuesday, 30 January 2007

My Picks of 2006, Part 1-"Life on Mars"

For the first in my series of blogs looking back at 2006, i have started with my television picks of 2006, and in particular one of the more unusual mainstream television hits of 2006...

Life on Mars (BBC1, January –March)

Television cop shows in Britain have been incredibly dull for the past 10 years. The template is always as follows. There is usually a murder, and the only person who can solve the case is the genius maverick/alcoholic/depressed with ex wife/generally has issues cop with the straight laced partner.

It seems strange to talk of “Life on Mars” as part of the same genre described above, but it is, and somehow, there’s a lot more to it. The premise is that Sam Tyler (played by the always excellent John Simm) is a CID detective in 2006. His girlfriend has been kidnapped by a serial killer. When things can’t get any worse, he is involved in a road accident, just after David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” single comes on to his car stereo.

When he awakes, he finds himself lying in a street in Manchester, about to start his new job at the local police station. Oh and it is 1973.

Yes it is a bit weird, and yes it has the possibility of turning into the Sunday night nostalga-fest that is Heart-beat (or The Royal) over on ITV. But it doesn’t go there for several reasons. As well as Simm, we also have Phillip Glenster as the unreconstructed dinosaur that is DCI Gene Hunt (great 70’s name there), who we have seen in Clocking Off and State of Play.

The plots are also excellent, as is the characterisation. The scripts are also excellent, especially when Sam says something that to the viewer is a sort of in-joke, wanting to swap his horse for the horse that Gene pulls in the Grand National sweepstake (Gene pulls Red Rum, who we know wins this race)

However there is a narrative which runs through the first series (and presumably on to the next one, due in the next couple of months) which is that we don’t know whether Sam is really in 1973, or whether we are witnessing the figment of his (possibly dying) imagination. There are noises, snippets of doctor’s speech as if examining the 2006 Sam. There is an episode where Sam hears that his life support is to be turned off at 2pm, and then gets called to attend a siege where the kidnapper warns that he will start killing hostages at 2pm. We also meet Sam’s mother and Father as they were in 1973. This is not good (in a Sci Fi sense) as is shown at the conclusion of the first series when we find out why Sams father left his mum when Sam was 5.

The other reason this show works is that it feels like a realistic representation of the time, and not some romantic vision of how it was. Overall it is an excellent and very inventive programme, which I am looking forward to seeing again.

Monday, 29 January 2007

Following in the footsteps of Great Uncle Walter

"Alex McLeish has been named the new Scotland coach. Former Rangers boss McLeish has signed a contract until 2010 and succeeds Walter Smith who resigned to take over at Ibrox on 10 January.
McLeish, who recently turned 48 and won 77 caps for his country, said he felt "proud" to become Scotland boss. SFA chief executive David Taylor said: "We have moved quickly to fill the vacancy caused by the unexpected departure of Walter Smith."

I think the first thing to say is that despite the doom mongers, I thing that this will be a good appointment. Sure the record that McLeish has had at Motherwell, Hibernian and Rangers is mixed. He took Motherwell to 2nd in the league in his debut season as a manager (the last team to split the Old Firm before Hearts managed it last season), but went downhill from there. Losing 2 of his top performers (McKinnon to Twente Enshnade and Lambert to Borrusia Dortmund) in Bosman transfers didn’t help.

After 3 and a half years he moved to Hibernian, who were relegated to the 1st Division within weeks of his arrival. A derby win over Hearts which was the beginning of the end of their title challenge was little consolation. In the 1st Division, McLeish built a fine attacking team around the talents of Russell Latapy and Frank Sauzee. Escaping the 1st Division at the first attempt, Hibernian continued to rise up the league. The high point of McLeish’s time at Hibernian came in 2001, when they reached the Scottish Cup final. Unfortunately, they were swept aside by a Celtic side going for their first domestic treble in 32 years.

Within 6 months McLeish had gone to Rangers, where he won his first silverware within weeks of joining. In all he won 2 League Championships, 2 Scottish Cups and 3 League Cups (including the domestic treble in 2002/3), not forgetting taking Rangers into the knockout phase of the European Cup, the first time any Scottish team has escaped from a round robin group phase. This is not a bad record considering that McLeish had to deal with the financial hangover from the Souness/Smith/Advocaat years. Money was tight to mention, and the team at the other end of Glasgow were in the ascendancy (O’Neill, in his time at Parkhead, had won 4 Championships, 4 other domestic trophies and had got to the Uefa Cup final) yet a good number of trophies were won despite the circumstances.

His task has been made difficult by the steady hand of Walter Smith over the past couple of years, who’s results have been miraculous. A 1-1 draw in World Cup qualifying against Italy, followed up by a 2-1 win over Norway in Oslo, topped by a 1-0 win over France in European Championship qualifying. The thing about this qualifying group is that it should have been about hot housing our young players, setting ourselves up for the next World Cup qualifying campaign. Unfortunately, our success now means the Scotland job is now about results. With away trips to Italy, Georgia and France to come, that makes results very difficult. Starting on March 28th when Georgia come a calling at Hampden.

See you later.

Friday, 26 January 2007

Outstanding contribution to music: Oasis


One of the many things that gets on my nerves about the Brit Awards is the Outstanding Achievement award, and I suppose it is always about what do you see the award standing for. I always thought that the award was for artists that re-defined music, were inventive with their art, and not just for those artists that sold by the truckload whatever tosh that they put out.

I was with a friend many years ago, when I first thought about who I would like to see pick up this award, the recipient who sparked the debate was The Eurithmics. Not a bad band, put out some good records. But not really the sort of band that I thought should have picked up the award. This years recipients, Oasis are another good band, but have they made an outstanding contribution to music? Hmmmm…. I came up with a list of 5 acts, people etc who should receive this honour.

1)Malcolm McLaren- Sure, he deserves it for managing and putting together the Sex Pistols, but also for the Duck Rock album which kind of was many peoples introduction in this country to the fledgling genre of Hip-Hop. It was also a dry run for the musicians who would form Art of Noise.

2)The Clash- “White Man in Hammersmith Palais”, “London Calling (both album & single) “The Magnificent Seven”, “Spanish Bombs”, “Rock the Casbah”… Really do I need to go on…

3) Anthony Wilson- He started Farctory, which was supposed to be an independent feeder label, but that was before Joy Division kinda changed the game plan. Also signed the Happy Mondays. Factory changed the game plan for a lot of small independent record labels.

4) Depeche Mode- The most criminally underrated British band, invented Alanis Morrisette (unfortunately) with their “Songs of Faith and Devotion” album. More “interesting” than Duran or Spandau.

5) Paul Oakenfold/Steve Osborne- Really these guys are here for initially their re-mix work with the Happy Mondays, followed by their production on the Mondays breakthrough album “Pills Thrills and Bellyaches”. The trend of guitar bands having dance makeovers started with the Oakenfold/Osborne re-mix of “Wrote For Luck” (even if I prefer the Vince Clarke re-mix)

What do you think, let me know.

See you later.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Ess Pee Hell 2!

“The Scottish Premier League has approved the creation of a second division, with invitations going out to 10 Scottish Football League clubs.

SPL chairman Lex Gold described the move as "seismic" and said the restructuring would be good for top-flight football in Scotland.

A meeting of the present 12 SPL clubs also approved the introduction of a cup tournament restricted to member clubs.

It is hoped to have the new arrangement up and running for season 2008-09.”

I don’t know about you guys out there in the blogosphere, but as the good Doctor would put it, I’ve seen this before, and the news isn’t good.

9 years ago we first heard of Lex Gold (pictured above) when he announced the first set of proposals to shake up the basket case known as Scottish Football. He talked of making the game more exciting for spectators/sponsors/ yada yada so on and so on… So here we are again, this time with SPL2, so what has changed.

Well, the quality of the product (sorry I was slipping into marketing speak) has not improved, there are 3 main performance criteria (sorry! Tests) I can use here, performance of the national team, performance of the football teams in European competition, and excitement of the league itself.

In the 10 years before the SPL the Scotland national team had qualified for 3 (and on their way to a fourth) major tournaments. Since 1997, we have had… hmmm…. France 1998 (which we were on our way to qualifying for) and…. Err… that’s it really. For the 2000 & 2004 European Championships we fell in playoffs to England & the Netherlands respectively, while for the 2002 & 2006 World Cups we couldn’t even get that far. Red pen for the SPL there. However the SPL would turn around and point to the recent success of the Under 19 Scotland team. True, but with these players, and the older ones like James McFadden, wouldn’t be getting 1st team exposure were it not for the continuing cash crisis surrounding Scottish Football. No longer will teams buy a “Carlos Kickaball” just because they can (and keep a promising young player on the bench or on the team).

The second tester here is European results. From 1987 to 1997, Scottish teams reached a European Quarter final 3 times( Rangers in 1987/88 & 92/93, Hearts in 1988/89), while after 1997 this was only achieved twice (Celtic in 2002/3 & 2003/4). Again the shrinking contribution of Scottish players may be to blame here. Or also the inflexibility of the Scottish teams, playing someone 3 or 4 times a league season is not conducive to tactical experimentation. That and there is no domestic match practice for two legged European ties.
The Third criterion is the excitement of the league. We have had 6 last day championship finishes in the past 25 years. Of these, 1998, 2003 & 2005 have involved the Old Firm (the richest clubs in Scotland, Celtic & Rangers) going for the championship on the last day. The others happened in 1983 (Dundee United, Celtic & Aberdeen), 1986 (Celtic & Hearts) and 1991 (where Rangers actually played Aberdeen for the championship, with Aberdeen only needing a draw at Ibrox).

In the past 9 years, the rich teams have hovered up the sponsorship money and Television money and squandered it on dud foreign players, instead of investing & hot housing young Scottish talent. The only good idea the SPL came up with was SPL TV, and they couldn’t agree on how to run that. I’m not sceptical, I’ve just been here before…

This blog was originaly posted at :http://uk.360.yahoo.com/silvertdevil69 on August 18th 2006

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

The Fog of Redundancy


Just after I started my blogging last year, i found out that the company that I worked for was going to re-locate the offices we worked in down to Coventry. At first i kind of aluded to it in my blogs, writing "I did have one of those Last Supper moments though when i went out with my collegues for lunch. Awkward!" on August 8th. When I left, on August 11th, I wrote this...


Well it’s that time, time to say farewell to you all. I agree with the people that said that it was the people that made this place enjoyable to work, and I have mostly enjoyed my 5 years and 145 days working here…

I wish you all good luck with whatever you do next...."

After working for the same company for more than 5 years, there is not a lot else to say really is there? It is with that i will leave Percepta for (probably) the last time, as i seek pastures new...
Anyone got a tissue?"

A couple of days later, in my original "Fog of Uncertainty" blog i revealed how i really felt...


Well, Friday was my last day at Percepta. I don’t know if you gathered but it was a bit of a wrench. I now feel as if I can provide you with some background on something that has been hovering over me like some sort of dark cloud over the past 5 months.

We were first told that we were going to be made redundant towards the end of March, some of us took it better than others. Me, I was OK about it at the time, but as the situation has developed, I have become more and more anxious to find gainful employment, and at the same time keep my redundancy.

The day of reckoning was July 10th, when I was told that I had 5 weeks notice. I felt relived, I could finally come out and say to potential employers “no notice period, you can have me after 11th August”. I had booked the next 2 days to go to employment agencies in any case.

Friday the 4th was hard as basically the Correspondence team was being broken up on that date, and our Team Leader of several weeks (he had been our Deputy for the previous 6 months) was also being made redundant on that date, alongside a number of my other colleagues as well. We all went out for lunch that afternoon, which is how I described it as a sort of Last Supper moment in one of my previous blogs.

The 11th however was harder than I thought that it would be. Not from a work point of view, just the opposite, giving me time to think & reflect. I have my theories & suspicions, but now is not the time to air them. I am still angry at the way things transpired… I shed a tear or 2… I had my work PC taken away on the Thursday (see picture). But I think I kept my dignity.
So what now, well I have 5 interviews over the next 3 weeks, starting with one on Friday, just before lunchtime."

Since then I have been working as a temp since October, not really sure what will happen, but who knows. I did feel bad over the next couple of weeks or so, mainly due to all the uncertainty as to where my next wage was coming from.

See you soon.

Friday, 19 January 2007

New here...

Hi there.

Just a quick blog to say hello. I am Allan, and i have been doing a blog on my Yahoo360 page since last June. I have decided to set one up here to, um, spread the word.

Until i get up and running, i will re-issue some of my previous blogs on Yahoo. My first choice was posted the week after my birthday last July, and includes my thougts on football comentators....
"I have been away from this blog, and now i'm back. I have some things going on that i need to make sense of, which i will need to tell you about. My birthday is also something else that i'll need to talk about as well, but not now.

This entry however is inspired by something i was discussing with a friend on Tuesday about football comentators.
I must admit that i am not a fan of football comentators on the tellevision, Mottson, Tyldsley, et al. Not even the Scottish football comentators of days gone by like Montford & McPherson are to my tastes ( I do like Jock Brown though). No, i prefer the comentators on the radio, like Green, Ingham & Begg.
I think this is because Television comentators tend to tell you the obvious things, a lot, and give you useless information as well. The constant crowbaring of references to England do not go down well either. Fine if England are due to play any of the teams involved, not fine in say Togo versus Switzerland.
I certainly feel that these reasons certainly curtails my enjoyment of football on the TV.
I feel that Football comentators have a lot to learn from comentators of other sports. I think that it was Richie Benaud, the don of Cricket comentators, who said that he learned to not speak, unless he had somethin useful to say. Here here!!"
See you later...