No Quota Asked or Given

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the FA imposing a quota system wherby every Premier League team has to have a certain number of English players in their squad.
The idea is clearly because of the continued failure of the English national side to recapture the glory of ’66. But the thing is 1966 was a perfect storm that led to English triumph, those elements have to line up again- a determined squad who worked well together, a savvy manager, home advantage and a questionable linesman decision.
As you can probably already tell, I’m against the quota, for a very simple reason- its bloody stupid.
The modern game may be beset by problems but there is still one thing about football which is good and right. And the quota flies in the face of that.
Football is a meritocracy.
Ability and talent are what gets you to the top of the game (luck helps of course), not your background.
Forcing teams to take on homegrown players won’t strengthen the national side, it’ll just weaken the league. Which nobody benefits from.
Here’s the thing, harsh as it seems, if an English player isn’t good enough to be first choice he’s not good enough and can warm the bench. The cream will rise to the top. David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and others rose to the top of their sport, without having to have the deck stacked in their favour.
Fans lose out too, can you imagine the Premier League without the foreign players? A world where Manchester United could have had to bench Cantona because Dion Dublin would meet their quota? No offence to Dublin, but he was no Cantona.
If the FA wants to build the national side they need to start lower, develop how talent is nurtured. Build up their players so that they earn their starting places, rather than handing those places to those who aren’t good enough but happen to be local lads.
Surely having players who have worked and fought to raise their game and get to the top is more likely to bring England success than a bunch of alright players who know their passport is enough to get them games at the highest level. They won’t be awful players, they’ll be skilled but they won’t be world beaters, because they won’t have that edge that comes from fighting to succeed.
The FA need to take steps, but I can’t help feeling that the quota would be one in the wrong direction.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: A Short Ride in the Jungle by Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent

The Ho-Chi Minh trail is the stuff of history books and legend, the supply route used by the North Vietnamese and their backers to transport weapons and equipment during the Vietnam war. Manned by volunteers it became a major thorn in the side of the US war effort and the subject of an unprecedented bombing campaign. It stretched through Laos and Cambodia, but forty years later much of the trail has been forgotten and all that remains is a mass of unexploded ordinance (UXO) which continue to blight the countryside of these nations, injuring the people who live there, decades after the war came to a close.

The mysterious trail is the focus for this book, which Antonia Bollingbroke-Kent attempt to follow the trail and find it’s secrets having been to Vietnam for a work trip while working for the BBC. ABK is an experienced traveler but the trip still posed a significant challenge, as she would be traveling alone and her vehicle of choice was a small Honda Cub dubbed the Pink Panther, a bike not really suited for the grueling off road journey before her.

short ride

The trip is an incredibly interesting affair and ABK is an observant and affable narrator, talking about the struggles she faces with energy and keenly observing the people she meets along the way. It’s written in a very easy going manner, and ABK juggles historical facts and info with what’s going on with her personally as she travels.

She passionately writes about her reasons for her journey as well as the injustices and tragedies she witnesses and hears about on the road. She finds three countries all of whom continue to bear the scars of their violent pasts, and the unfair way they have been treated. When the US pulled out from the region they did so quickly, leaving many of their former comrades in dangerous positions, and ABK is rightfully angered by the fact that UXO continue to kill and maim. She also highlights the fact that the US has done very little to help in clearing these bombs, especially compared to the money it pours into attempts to locate the bodies of their MIA soldiers.

But it’s the personal journey that is the most intriguing, with ABK taking to the road and experiencing life in a place a world away from her home in the UK. She’s roughing it and at times the road is tough going and she has to dig deep to keep going. It’s about someone having to push themselves and face their fears, and the result is inspiring, it got my feet itching and kickstarted my dormant desire to learn to ride a motorbike, although I might build up a bit of experience when I decide to go off road in a distant land.

Panther in trouble

Panther in trouble

The Vietnam war has long been an interest of mine, and it’s interesting to read about the lasting effects of the conflict and how it has shaped the area. It’s a good read, mixing history and travel in good measure to fantastic effect, ABK isn’t the greatest writer but she’s still warm and engaging, and a passionate guide on her road trip.

Verdict: An engaging and entertaining travel book, written in an easy going and warm manner, with a likable narrator. Bolingbroke-Kent bravely tackles a significant challenge and discovers an interesting place where the scars of the past are still vivid on the natural psyche. It definitely made me want to hit the open road, and then go off it. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service

Warning! Spoilers Ahead! I’ve tried to avoid them where possible, but some have snuck in, apologies.

Halfway during this film Colin Firth’s character, Harry Hart, is asked if he likes spy movies, to which he replies “Nowadays, they’re all a little serious for my taste. But the old ones….marvelous. Give me a far-fetched theatrical plot any day.” It’s pretty much voicing the film’s intent, which seems like a reaction against the more serious Bourne and Craig era Bonds, and delivers on the far-fetched theatrical plot front.

Of course, this is from the team that brought us Kick-Ass so we’re a long way from Roger Moore territory. Once again Matthew Vaughn directs a script he co-wrote with Jane Goldman based on a Mark Millar comic book, and the result is essentially what you’d expect from the above quote and that team: a plot from an old Bond movie but served with a heavy dose of profanity, hyper violence and hilarity.

kingsman pos

Colin Firth plays Harry aka Galahad, the sharp suited gentleman spy who works for Kingsman, a privately owned and run spy agency. Harry is investigating the death of a fellow agent, Lancelot (Jack Davenport), killed while on the trail of mercenaries connected with several incidents involving terrorist groups being taken out by being exposed to something which made them violently turn on each other.

With an agent dead, Harry’s boss, Arthur (Michael Caine), asks Harry to suggest someone to compete against the selection of the other agents. Harry’s unlikely choice is Eggsy (Taron Egerton), the son of a former colleague who sacrificed himself to save Harry’s life. Eggsy lives on a rough council estate and doesn’t fit the traditional suave spy type, but Harry sees the potential he has squandered.

Eggsy in turn is impressed by Harry’s abilities as a fighter and his suave, restrained demeanor and agrees to engage in the training programme. Here he must compete against the other candidates, all of whom are posh toffs and he faces judgment and mockery from many of them, although Roxy (Sophie Cookson) does befriend him. The training is overseen by Merlin (Mark Strong), who also knew Eggsy’s father and was present at his death.

Odd man out- Eggsy and his fellow trainees

Odd man out- Eggsy and his fellow trainees

As Eggsy goes through his training, Harry investigates Lancelot’s death, which turns out to be connected to tech billionaire Valentine (Samuel L Jackson), who seems to be plotting something big and is assisted by Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) an assassin who uses bladed prosthetic legs as her weapon of choice. What is Valentine’s plan and how is it connected to the free SIM cards he’s giving out?

Will Eggsy stick to the course and become a Kingsman agent? Will he and Harry be able to work out what Valentine’s up to and stop it?

This movie is an utter gem, filled with laugh out moments and hugely entertaining OTT action sequences. MWG and I laughed throughout and left the cinema extremely impressed and entertained, as did all of the people we went with. It plays with the spy genre conventions, ribbing and reveling in the excesses and ridiculousness of it.

At the centre is a fantastic performance from Colin Firth, who you can tell must have had a ball playing with his traditional persona. He doesn’t look threatening or badass, but throughout the film he carries himself with this taut restraint and posh mannerisms that suggest great personal control, which ensures that when he finally cuts loose in the fight scenes it’s incredibly entertaining.

Harry in action

Harry in action

Firth’s performance generates a lot of laughs and his stiff nature is the island of calm in the middle of the ridiculous OTT film that unfolds around him.

The rest of the cast are on fine form too, Egerton, who was a new face to me is wonderful as Eggsy, making the character believable and likable. He may front with swagger and bravado, but Egerton allows us to see the softer side and the fear which has hampered him from fulfilling his potential. Eggsy is an engaging character, guided by an inner sense of decency but also having a ball with the high tech gadgets and adventures that await him.

Egerton’s transformation from chav slacker to suited gentleman spy is well done, and best of all he maintains his grinning, life loving verve throughout, meaning that even when he’s an ass kicking spy there are still flashes of the jokey, loudmouth youth. He might have the suit now, but it’s clear that he was always a hero and that being a gentleman isn’t about where you’re from or who your family is, but how you carry yourself.

Eggsy transformed

Eggsy transformed

Of course, a lot of the scenes get stolen by Samuel L Jackson, who still has great gravitas even with the bizarre character he plays. A man with a plan for world domination who can’t stand the sight of blood and speaks with a lisp, it’s to his credit that SLJ manages to still make Valentine a mesmerizing and charismatic on-screen presence. It plays slightly with his usual type of character, as Valentine is far from a “bad ass mother f**ker”.

SLJ playing with his on screen persona

SLJ playing with his on screen persona

Valentine’s plan is a treat, the kind of nutso idea that old Bond movies would go for, a plan to save the world by culling the population by turning the masses into rage fuelled maniacs who’ll take each other out. This leads to a fantastically excessive sequence of extreme brutality as Harry takes on the congregation of a far-right church who have all gone crazy. It’s a fast paced, extreme sequence which mixes black comedy laughs with some wince inducing, bone crunching violence.

The movie zips along with a great sense of fun and while some developments are easy to see coming it still manages to surprise and amuse with little touches that toy with Bond movie tropes and builds to a crazy, but satisfying conclusion.

I also loved Gazelle, Valentine’s henchwoman who with her bladed legs is like a throwback to the colourful henchmen of Bond movies past and she’s a cool character, with a steely look in her eye and the perfect compliment to the squeamish Valentine.

kingsman gazelle

Vaughn’s direction is on point, with great comic timing, fast paced action and a joyous delight in the film’s daft touches. All in all it’s a hugely entertaining movie and left me with a big dumb smile on my face, and dare I say it, it even beats Kick-Ass.

Verdict: A magnificently overblown spy movie pastiche/homage complete with colourful villains, outlandish plots and insane gadgets. Vaughn and Goldman’s script is chockablock with laughs and the performances, particularly Firth and Egerton are extremely well done. The violence and swearing won’t make it everyone’s cup of tea, but for me it hit the spot and I found it a real treat, because I like my action movies to be a bit OTT and my spy movies on the silly side. 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Awkward Silence or Let Jay Go!

One of my favourite shows at the moment is Gogglebox. The set up is simple, cameras have been set up in people’s houses and we watch them watch TV and react. Despite what seems like a daft concept the show works, mainly because of the families they’ve chosen, who give some funny reactions to the week’s TV highlights.
Bucking this trend is Jay, who sits with his girlfriend, Eve, and her parents (see above). Unlike everyone else Jay’s appeal is that it he doesn’t make funny comments, he doesn’t make any comments.
Dubbed “Silent Jay” he’s become a fan favourite and is oddly charming as he sits there as the others lose their minds over stuff, the calm eye of the storm.
However, the recent series is a bit of a tough watch due to behind the scenes events.
Jay and his missus, Eve, have broken up. Which is rough, but what makes it worse is that as they’ve signed for the series, Channel 4 is making them keep filming.
Apparently it was fairly amicable, and they’re still “good friends” but whatever the circumstances I’m a firm believer that post-breakup you need to get some distance between you.
They were never overly coupley, her parents were right next to them, but there’s bound to be some tension now. And it’s gonna be awkward, I can’t help thinking it would be best if they let Jay go, or filmed him at his, with mates or something.
Just not on his own, sitting alone staring at the screen in silence, that would be a grim affair. Like a weird art film about a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Let Jay go, man! It just ain’t cool.
I know he signed, but things have changed, and for a show based on a natural atmosphere, this is an incredibly unnatural situation. Who still hangs with their ex and her folks after breaking up?
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


TV Round Up: Girls, Ghouls and Goofiness

So this is just a run down of some shows I’ve been liking a lot recently most of which have been enjoyed during binges as I’ve been cwtched up with MWG , it’s sort of recommendations for you guys to check out, let me know if there’s anything you think I should give a watch.

Adventure Time

adventure time

What it’s about: Young teen Finn and his shapeshifting dog Jake go on adventures in a crazy fantasy land. These usually involve them encountering weird beasts or having to stop the Ice King from kidnapping princesses.

Why I like it: It kinda reminds me of the Powerpuff Girls in that it’s kinda for kids but also works for grown ups, the show is filled to the brim with weird invention and surreal gags. It’s so damn weird that it’s captivating and there’s some funny writing on show too. It’s a goofy gem of a show.

Constantine

constantine tv

What it’s about: Based on the DC character, John Constantine. A paranormal investigator and con man who’s called in to fight the coming darkness and investigates various ghouls and demons as the show progresses.

Why I like it: Confession time, I like the Keanu Reeves movie, but this is a lot closer to the source comics. John Constantine is a cynical, sneaky bugger and is played with real skill and charm by Matt Ryan, who manages to make him human without softening him up too much, plus I kinda dig the whole snarky PI vibe and I’m a sucker for supernatural shows.

For balance I should point out that of all the shows featured this is the only one MWG isn’t into.

Girls

girls

What it’s about: Hannah, a neurotic writer struggles to find her place in life in New York as her friends do the same.

Why I like it: Hannah, played by the show’s creator Lena Dunham is a fantastic creation, funny but also extremely frustrating at times, the show’s writing is fantastic in that it shows us all of the ways the characters fail and their flaws, but manages to keep most of them likable, even the unlikable ones still feel well rounded. They feel real and while some of the situations are a little cliche, the writing keeps it moving and the performances are great across the board.

My only real problem with it are the sex scenes, which try to so hard to move away from glamour and be “un-Hollywood” to such an extent that they just seem exaggeratedly awkward. Or maybe I’ve just been lucky to have non-awkward sex, it’s just I can’t imagine MWG and me talking this much bollocks when we’re in the mood, you know? That aside, the show totally works for me.

Sleepy Hollow

sleepy hollow

What it’s about: Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), a British double agent for the American revolution is brought back to life in the 21st century, as is the horseman who he’s connected with. In the present day he teams up with Lt Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) a cop who’s also connected to the supernatural events in Sleepy Hollow, together they team up to try and stop the oncoming apocalypse and the demons that are let loose.

Why I like it: Like I said earlier, I love supernatural shows and what I dig about this is that while there’s a plot running through the whole show it keeps things simple, with a lot of episodes being “freak of the week” affairs like the early seasons of Buffy and Supernatural. I also love the interplay between Ichabod and Abbie, and the fish-out-of-water aspect. The writing is funny in places and the chemistry with the leads brings to mind Castle and Bones, both shows that I love.

Stella

stella

What it’s about: The life and loves of Stella Morris (Ruth Jones), a single mother in a small Welsh valleys town, and also her friends and family.

Why I like it: Ruth Jones created this show too and, like with Gavin and Stacey, it’s wonderfully well observed capturing the weirdness and comedy of everyday life. The writing is consistently funny and there are some wonderful characters, particularly Aunty Brenda (Di Botcher), who’s the kind of interfering loud mouth gossip who most of us will have come across in our lives. I do worry that it might not travel as well out of Wales, but it seems to be doing alright.

Ruth Jones is extremely likable as the main character and the series keeps the right balance of drama and comedy throughout.

MWG introduced me to it and we’ve blazed through the first three seasons and are watching the fourth at the moment, and it’s only now it’s starting to falter a bit. It’s still very funny and well written, but the constant focus on Stella’s love life is getting to me a bit now, and it just feels as though the writers think that the only way they can write her a happy ending is to get a man, and it’d be nice if they showed us her being happy by herself.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


6 Nations 2015 Part 5: Hyperbole justified

Since Italy joined the tournament the final day has become a big deal, three matches and often with the championship still to be decided. As is the way of things nowadays, branding is important and soSuper Saturday was born.

To me it feels a bit hyperbolic and flashy, not really what rugby’s about, but this year at least it proved a well deserved name as the Six Nations 2015 came to a magnificent close.

With four teams still potential victors, although the French were a longshot and required some upsets, every game played out with great drama to ensure that right up until the end it was still all to play for.

Kicking it off was Wales’ visit to Rome, and if they could win, and win well, they could pull off a championship win. The Italians were coming off a thumping from the French and despite improvements in their play, are still viewed as an easy win.

However, they played impressively in the first half, or rather, they played well enough to capitalize on a shoddy Welsh opening. Scoring a penalty in the first minute they kept Wales restrained and at the break the men in red had a slender 14-13 lead.

Why did Wales struggle? Had they gone in too cocky, or were the Italians stinging from the French game and seeking redemption? Was this karma screwing me over after my delight of getting two Welsh predictions wrong in recent weeks? Had a French wizard put a curse on the Welsh side in order to give his nation a chance at the prize, and would Ireland similarly be hexed?

I Googled "French wizard" and this is by far my favourite result

I Googled “French wizard” and this is by far my favourite result

The curse idea didn’t seem too ridiculous as Wales major points scorer, Leigh Halfpenny, had to leave the pitch with an injury. In the pub I was in you could feel the blow this dealt to fans’ confidence, Halfpenny’s kicking has been almost mechanically perfect this year, when he stands over the ball points are almost guaranteed, Wales were already struggling, how would we cope without this reliable source of points?

Leigh Halfpenny- How would Wales cope without their reliable kicking machine?

Leigh Halfpenny- How would Wales cope without their reliable kicking machine?

Just fine, it would turn out.

Perhaps Warren Gatland gave one hell of a team talk at the break, or the French wizard was distracted and the hex broken, or maybe Wales just drank that special potion that gifts them 40 minutes of decent play, but the second half was a very different story.

Wales came out all guns blazing, Liam Williams bagged a try to extend the lead and then in a ten minute blitz George North scored a hat trick of tries, each converted by Dan Biggar and suddenly Wales were comfortably ahead and buzzing.

North bags his second of the game, during a frantic ten minute spell

North bags his second of the game, during a frantic ten minute spell

I roared at the TV and more followed, with Rhys Webb, Sam Warburton and Scott Williams all getting over for Wales, and with 7 minutes remaining Wales were 61-13 up and top of the table. The Italians would bag a last minute try, but Wales were still ahead and the result meant that both Ireland and England needed substantial victories to become champions.

This left the Welsh fans of having to rely on the Scottish team winning, or at least holding Ireland back from bounding ahead. Of course, if we’d asked any Scottish fan they’d have told us we were in for a long afternoon.

In what was the scrappiest game of the day, the Scottish resistance at Murrayfield lasted all of 30 minutes. The opening half hour saw them get ten points on the scoreboard, half of which came from Greig Laidlaw, taking over from Chris Pattinson as the Scottish kicker who does his best only to be let down by the 14 muppets he plays alongside.

Laidlaw kicks for goal

Laidlaw kicks for goal

 

This left them within touching distance of the Irish at 17-10, but this closeness lasted all of 3 minutes before Jonathan Sexton kicked a penalty and Scotland needed two scores to catch them.

This was far too big an ask of the Scots, as for the last 50 minutes they added nothing to the board, while the Irish powered over them, building an impressive 30 point lead and passing Wales’ points difference to go top. It was an abysmal game at times, Ireland were deserved winners but against a faltering Scottish team this wasn’t saying much. The defeat completed a whitewash for the home team, and it’s hard to argue it was undeserved.

The Irish had done enough to go top, and left England having to defeat France by 26 points to claim the title. The BBC’s pundits may have been confident, talking of how England should cruise to victory, but I was skeptical, 26 points is a hell of a margin, and the French were unlikely to just roll over for them.

As it turns out, both of us were wrong in a way.

In what was a fascinating, dramatic game the English fought magnificently but were hampered by a French team who just didn’t seem to accept they were beat.

A first minute try from Ben Youngs brought some premature “Swing low” singing after only five minutes (yes, I was annoyed), which was choked off as France came back to take the lead after Sebastien Tillous-Borde added a try to an early penalty. Things got even worse for England when France added a second try shortly before the 20 minute mark.

England to their credit got back into it, Anthony Watson scoring on the half hour before Youngs added his second five minutes later, both converted by George Ford, who was kicking superbly.

At half time even Jeremy Guscott’s confidence looked shaken as England left the field 27-15 up, two converted tries short of what they needed for a championship win.

France came out and made the situation worse, scoring a try two minutes after the restart, but Ford’s try a few minutes later restored their lead and a Jack Nowell try increased it.

France, however, weren’t done and came back again, closing the gap once more. Billy Vunipola got over for England, but two minutes later France scored their fifth try of the afternoon. It was crazy stuff, with a ridiculously high number of tries and France frustrating England. With quarter of an hour left it was 48-35 to England, which would be an impressive victory, but not enough.

Frustration was showing, tempers flared and England were getting rattled. Luckily to keep the peace was Welsh referee Nigel Owens, who had a great game and is one of the best things to come from the refs having microphones. Nige was on top form, stern and no nonsense in enforcing the rules and issuing warnings to both sides to sort out their issues, remaining incredibly polite throughout.

He had to cope with frustration on both sides, a little bit of handbags after a vicious looking Courtney Lawes tackle and, possibly most challenging, English captain Chris Robshaw constantly pestering him after every decision. To his credit, he handled this well enough and was caught saying “There’s no further discussion, Chris” and later on issuing a stern “Christopher!” in much the same way as my mother did when I misbehaved.

Nige debates with Robshaw

Nige debates with Robshaw

England were now in second place, having passed Wales on points. I was willing France to get one more score, and this drew ire from English friends. It wasn’t that I wanted England to lose, it’s just I wanted Wales to do the best they could, and for that, England couldn’t win too well.

And, if I’m being honest, I’d much rather see Ireland win, as they’d been the tournament’s best team consistently and their fans are less d**kish in victory. It was for this reason that after Jack Nowell got his second try with mere minutes to go, and Ford kicked the conversion I almost lost my mind with the French players.

England were now six points away from winning the whole thing, and France as the clock went red and they gained possession on their own try line tried to run it out. I yelled at the “stupid French idiot” to kick for touch, they couldn’t win and the chances of going the length of the pitch to score were considerably slimmer than them messing up and England snatching a last minute try.

Luckily reason did kick in and ball was put out, finishing the match 55-35. A twenty point victory is a notable achievement but in this instance it clearly felt more like a defeat to the English players, as they finished second for the fourth consecutive year.

Ben Youngs, to his credit, showed some class, congratulating Ireland in his post match interview and the party could finally start for Ireland some two hours after they finished their match as they claimed the title for the second year in the row.

Scotland v Ireland - RBS Six Nations

Well done to Ireland, who probably deserved the title as they’d been consistently the best team, wobble against Wales aside.

For Wales it was a frustrating tournament, a shaky start against England could have derailed us and the second match against Scotland was a tense affair. While the squad’s comeback after these two games was to be admired and we impressed against France, Ireland and Italy, there are still big questions to be answered before the World Cup in the autumn- we need to keep the intensity up for a full match and we can’t afford to make so many errors.

Ireland and England go into the World Cup in a similar position, they’ve done well, but neither has been perfect and against the big guns of the Southern Hemisphere they may be made to pay the price of their weak spots.

For France it was just another year of uneven performances, and they need more consistency. Italy struggled repeatedly and despite some improvement still leak points, with the worst points difference of the tournament, but at least they have one win to soothe their wounds, Scotland must be looking forward to the World Cup with dread, South Africa will likely destroy them and given their performances here even the smaller countries could trip them up.

In essence, the six nations all need to improve or the trophy looks set to go below the equator.

My predictions final score: 11/15.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Inside Chris’ Studio

There’s an American TV show where this guy sycophantically interviews film stars, it’s not particularly interesting because the dude doesn’t really probe that deep. However, every guest is asked the same questions as part of the process, and as my acting career has stalled at amateur dramatics level I thought I’d answer them here, so here we go.

1. Favourite word.

Discombobulate.

I can’t remember when I first heard this word, for some reason I think it was either Don King or a Don King impression that used the word, but I dug it. It’s just one of those words that sounds right for what it means.

Discombobulated just sounds more fitting and accurate than “confused”.

2. Least favourite word.

YOLO.

Does YOLO count as a word? It’s my blog and I’m saying it does. This only just edged out “bae”, and only because I’ve not heard anyone seriously use bae out loud. I’m not against text speech, it has it’s place- in text. Using them out loud is not kosher and I’m secretly a little judgmental of anyone who uses them out loud.

YOLO doesn’t mean anything offensive, and the idea of “you only live once” can be freeing and a decent policy in some areas, but the problem is that about 90% of the people I’ve heard use this unironically have been douches, and that’s just tainted the whole thing for me.

yolo

3. What turns you on?

Well, MWG obviously.

Aside from her, I generally favour bigger, curvier women.

On a non-looks basis? I like passion. I don’t just mean sexual passion, I just find it an attractive quality when someone is really passionate and into something, although still able to laugh at it a bit, because passion is good, obsession is something else, and you’ve got to have a sense of humor about stuff.

4. What turns you off?

Bigotry.

Gods, that sounds pretentious.

Hate, I guess. Everyone has things they don’t like, that’s part of life, but there’s this level where it tips into this angry, consuming hate which is just incredibly ugly to me.

hate

Man, I sound like a hippie.

5. What sound/noise do you love?

Ice cream van music.

It doesn’t matter where or when I hear it, a little part of me is happy to hear it. I think it’s because I like knowing that it’s making kids excited and happy, and that as an adult I can pick whatever I want if I choose to go follow the piper’s tune, without my Dad pressuring me to go for a Mini Milk (they were like 20p when I was a kid, and my Dad would try and nudge us in that direction).

6. What sound/noise do you hate?

England rugby fans singing “Swing Low”.

And not just because it usually means England are winning, but because of the song’s origins as a slave spiritual which doesn’t fit with the certain type of English fan it brings to mind- a little bit posh, arrogant and basically a douche.

7. Favourite curse word?

Motherf**ker and it’s variants.

It’s long and you can adjust tone so it can be used in lots of different ways. And I just love how it sounds, especially when said by Samuel L Jackson.

8.What profession would you like to attempt?

Writer.

This is what I’ve wanted to do since I was like twelve, and while what type of writer I’ve wanted to be has changed it’s always been there. I think I’d like to be a globe trotting reporter who meets weird people and tells their stories in a kinda gonzo way.

9. What profession would you not like to do?

Nurse, politician, call centre worker, soldier, England football manager, there’s a bunch, really.

10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

“You did alright, kid. Maybe you failed a lot, and you coulda been nicer at times, but you did alright. And you were right, I ain’t got a problem with the gays or other religions, heck, I’m letting you in and some of the stuff you’ve written on that blog is pretty close to blasphemy. Whatever, get in here, there’s lots of cool people you gotta meet.”

NB In my head God speaks with either the voice of John Wayne or Katherine Hepburn.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Buddha never expected this!

Right off the bat I’m going to have to admit that my knowledge of Buddhism is a bit on the weak side, what I basically knows is that they believe in reincarnation and the pursuit of enlightenment. Most of what I’ve gained has come from kung fu and Steven Seagal movies and a brief phase when I followed the Dalai Lama on Twitter until I realized most of his missives were covered by Bill and Ted’s motto “Be excellent to each other”:

Bill and Ted- Great modern philosophers

Bill and Ted- Great modern philosophers

Anyway, my major, uninformed, perception of Buddhists was that they were extremely chill, not aggressively out there trying to convert folks or preaching hate, although when pushed they knew kickass kung fu to defend themselves.

It appears that this perception might not be entirely accurate and paints the Buddhists in a positive light. Or at least it does when you hear some of the truth about the Buddhists of Myanmar AKA Burma. Apparently some Buddhist monks over there have joined in with some anti-Islamic feeling, which kinda sucks.

I get that religions differ, but at their core most are about being decent and give people instructions on how to live a good life, the only difference being those instructions and what the perceived reward is, and who it’s being handed out by.

Personally, I think more religious people should take the view of supporting and defending other religions. Think about it, if you’re a Christian you should defend a Jewish person’s right to keep kosher because there may come a time when your practices are under threat. As a religious person somebody should have an even greater sense of the importance on freedom of religious expression, or so you’d think.

It’s like that poem “First they came…”

Back to Myanmar, aside from the anti-Islam stuff, which is pretty terrible and could increase violence and division in the country, Buddhism has been in the news recently because of a court case.

The case revolves around the poster I’ve included below, which was used by New Zealander Phillip Blackwood to promote a club night and features Buddha wearing headphones, this fell afoul of Myanmar’s strict law to stop religions being insulted and/or damaged.

buddha headphones

Personally, I don’t think that this is particularly insulting or damaging, although as a non-Buddhist I’m probably not the best judge.

What I do think is that it’s not intentionally insulting, I don’t think this poster was designed to offend Buddhists, or Buddha himself. If it was, what’s it saying? Buddha would like music? I think the whole situation should have been resolved long before it got to a court room and wound up with three men facing jail for two and a half years.

Someone should have taken Blackwood to one side and said, “Hate to be a pain, mate, but you couldn’t go with a different poster? It’s just I don’t think this is a respectful depiction of Buddha.”

Long term readers may be suspecting hypocrisy on my part as I’ve argued against the depiction of Muhammad because it’s offensive to Muslims, but the difference here is that Muslims themselves don’t make statues/artworks of Muhammad, while there are giant statues of Buddha all over Asia.

Unfortunately when it comes to Big B’s image, the ship has sailed and it’s all over t-shirts and posters, many of which are slightly less than reverential. Go to any shop catering for hippies/stoners and you’ll see Buddha, or more accurately the “fat” Buddha on lighters or turned into bottles and bongs. That doesn’t make it right, but I’ve never heard anybody make a fuss. If these are offensive maybe the word should get out a bit more.

The thing is, even if the law in Myanmar states that you can’t insult/damage religion, you’d still have thought that Buddhists could intervene or argue for the defendants. They can appreciate the law, but given the religion’s seemingly peaceful, nice nature you’d have thought they’d defend the accused, saying that they made a mistake but don’t deserve imprisonment. And that would swing the tide, because according to the BBC around 90% of the population is Buddhist.

From what little I know of Buddha, I can’t see him taking a “lock ‘em up!” attitude in this case, so maybe the Burmese should start wearing bracelets with “WWBD” on them, although they may ignore them as some Christians do with their slogan accessories.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


How do I know when it’s love? Or Why “Too Soon” Isn’t a Real Thing

This week I heard about a news story where two first year university students had got engaged, three months after they met during Freshers’. The two lovers, James and Kate, have been dating since not long after they met and have decided to get married. Congratulations to them.

It’s not really much of a news story, in fact, it’s weird that it’s even got covered by more than one website. I read about it at Buzzfeed, and they’d got it from The Daily M**l’s website.

The thing is, it is a bit unusual these days for people to get engaged at 19. Back in the day, of course, it was different, but I think because we live longer now, there’s less rush and people are now expected to be be a bit more settled when they decide to tie the knot.

You’re not “on the shelf” at 30 anymore, he said staring down the barrel of the big 3-0. I mean, it may be different for women, but I’ve never felt any pressure to get hitched, or even to be in a relationship. At most I’ve had the “When are you going to find a nice girl?” talk from people or variations on that.

The reason I’m writing about this non-story is that reading the article I was thinking about the response it wanted and, in fact, got. I think the idea is we’ll read the story because it is a bit against the norm, and then people will wade in with their opinions.

A lot of these are pretty negative, with people calling the pair foolish, reckless or questioning their relationship.

Way to go kids! That divorce rate isn’t going to reach 60% on its own!- Sample comment

Then of course you get folks going in to respond, arguing that when “you know, you know” or giving anecdotal evidence of quick/young engagements that have turned into long lasting, loving marriages where everyone’s lived happily ever after.

I don’t fully agree with either side, what I do agree with is the supporters of the couple pointing out that the naysayers are being a bit nasty.

The thing is, thinking about it, there are a two major issues-

Number one, do we really need to comment on this? I mean, everyone’s entitled to an opinion, but that doesn’t mean you have to share it. I know that some folks will say “well, they’re just commenting on a story, not directly to the couple” and that is true, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the couple read about it.

People can be very masochistic and a lot of people, even when they suspect something might hurt them will still be curious and want to look.

If you know the couple, maybe you can voice an opinion. After giving congratulations at first, of course, we’re not barbarians. Maybe just a quiet “you sure about this?” chat, or trying to argue for a careful, not too rushed affair and arguing that perhaps it can be a long engagement with the wedding coming after graduation, when they’ll have less distractions and, if you have doubts about the speedy engagement, they’ll have more time to think about it.

Which brings us to the second issue, why is this considered fast? And why is that considered a bad thing?

I mean, sure it’s probably quicker than the average time between first date and proposal, but there’s not really a rule for that is there?

You can’t put a timeline on relationships, a calendar with milestones on that everyone has to fall in line with. It’s not how it works, and if you do try and stick to a rigid calendar that’s probably going to cause problems.

I have a friend who has been in a long term relationship with his partner, with not even a hint of wedding bells in the air. When discussing their relationship with someone else, and mentioning how long they’d been together heard the phrase “Oh, well she deserves a ring now then”. It struck me as an odd thing to say, as if an engagement ring is like a long service reward, that after a certain length of time engagement is the natural next step.

For some people it is, for some people it isn’t. My friend may get engaged to his girlfriend, but at the same time they seem perfectly happy as they are, and marriage isn’t for everyone. Some people get engaged in a hurry, others are together for years, some people never get married- none of these is the wrong option, it’s different strokes for different folks.

Personally, I just think that James and Kate should be wished good luck. Clearly for them the time feels right, and who are we to say they’re wrong? I knew after three months with MWG that I loved her and could see a long term future (with no timeline in mind), hell, I knew that before we hit the three month mark.

James and Kate know they love each other now, is it a love that will last? Will they really be together for the rest of their lives? I don’t know. They don’t know. You don’t know. But how is that different from any other relationship, just because you’ve dated for years doesn’t guarantee marital success, and nobody can predict the future, in the end it’s a leap of faith for all couples, and these two are just leaping sooner.

Basically, just leave them get on with, it’s not somebody else’s place to tell them at what speed their relationship should be developing. I think most of us would agree that if someone started giving us a timetable to follow in our romantic endeavours we’d find that pretty annoying.

I think James and Kate should have used the following statement in response:

“You do you, and I’ll do me”

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


6 Nations 2015 Part 4: Wide Open

For the second week in a row my pessimistic assessment of Wales’ chances were proven wrong, which was nice because it meant my team won and it’s also opened the tournament up.

Had Ireland triumphed in Cardiff it would basically have been all over, and the Irish would have been the only real runner for the championship (sorry, Scotland, but I can’t see them tripping the Irish up next week). I didn’t get to watch the match as I was travelling back home to fulfill my son duties for Mothering Sunday, but I kept abreast of the match online and caught the highlights.

It appears that Wales stepped up massively and defended like Trojans (luckily the Irish aren’t good at woodcraft), and held back wave after wave of Irish attack and managed to upset the visitors and stop the Grand Slam express. Wales benefited from a fabulous Scott Williams try and, once again, the wonderfully consistent kicking of Leigh Halfpenny.

Leigh Halfpenny- Reliable

Leigh Halfpenny- Reliable

With Ireland now 3-1, they’ve gone from being out in front to being involved in a three way dance for the title with England and Wales, both also on three victories from four matches.

England managed to pull off a 25-13 win over Scotland to retain the Calcutta cup for another year (Scotland’s last win was in ’08). England were by far the better team, but the final score masks a shaky first half which saw them go in 13-10 down.

England took an early lead through a try from Jonathan Joseph, who continues to impress, which George Ford converted.

Jonathan Joseph- impressive

Jonathan Joseph- impressive

Scotland came back strong and Mark Bennett’s try, converted by Greig Laidlaw, tied it all up. Laidlaw added two penalties to give them the lead, but after the break England showed their class and decimated the Scots. Three minutes into the second half Ford got over and then converted his own score and England never looked back. A third try from Jack Nowell sealed it all off.

It wasn’t a perfect performance, but Scotland failed to capitalize, and through players like Ford, Nowell, Joseph and Mike Brown all impressed, and the scoreline could have been a lot stronger, but passing errors cost them extra points.

The win was enough to place England at the top of the table, with a bigger point difference over Ireland and Wales. England have a difference of 37, putting them ahead of Ireland on 33 and Wales with 12. This means that it’s now calculator time as fans try and work out what their team needs to win the whole thing.

For Wales what’s needed is a massive thumping of the Italians with England and Ireland either losing or winning by a narrow margin. Ireland just need to beat Scotland by a margin at least five greater than England’s win over France, and Wales to not run too far away in Rome, this will be England’s hope and that Ireland don’t win by a big margin.

Technically I should point out that France are still in the mix. Their 29-0 demolition of Italy means that they can still mathematically win the championship, but it’s an incredibly slim chance and by the time they kick off at Twickenham at 5pm next Saturday it may already be gone.

For the French to take the championship they need both Italy and Scotland to score upsets and to go on and beat the English themselves, by 16 points. Personally I can’t see either team at Twickenham winning by that big a gap and it will probably be a tight affair with only a few points in it, probably in England’s favour.

With this in mind, I still think this is Ireland’s year, as I can see them getting quite a win over the Scots, which will cancel out England’s advantage in the standings. Wales will probably finish third, as while I think we’ll convincingly beat the Italians I can’t see us doing it by over twenty five points, which is what we need to get ahead of England.

Round 5 predictions:
Italy vs Wales (by 7-15)
Scotland vs Ireland (by >10)
England vs France (by <7)
Current score: 8/12.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 721 other followers