Archives » 2009 » June

Confederations Cup (5) USA 2 Brazil 3

Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg

Cracking final.
USA rocked a poor Brazil back on their heels first half and were well worth the two goal lead. The early goal second half put the writing on the wall, though, and it was all Brazil from then on. So in the end the world wasn€’t turned upside down.

The US are good when they have eleven men on the park. The rest of us are stuffed if mainstream US ever takes proper football to its heart over their own version, baseball and basketball. Or if China gets its football act together.

One remark from the commentators: “England really don’€™t have anything to fear next year,”€ – Mark Bright.
Oh, dear.

9Tail Fox by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Gollancz, 2006

This is a slightly different cover from the copy I read – where the Times comment given was, “Compelling Entertainment.”

Bobby Zha, a San Francisco detective with Chinese ancestry and the obligatory failed marriage, is murdered while on a case. He sees a nine tailed fox – a ghost from Chinese myth – and knows he’s dead. He then mysteriously wakes up in New York in the long comatose (since childhood) body of Robert Vanberg, now a wealthy man. He returns to San Fran and posing variously as a CIA, FBI or White House agent sets to investigating his own death and sorting out the case he was working on at the time he was killed.

It’s a neat SF idea, having a character delve into the circumstances of his own death. The problem with this is that until the last two chapters that’s the only SF element present and hence for most of the book there seems no adequate reason for it. Apart from that we have a pretty straightforward thriller. No sweat there, it’s what Grimwood has made himself good at – big on plot and violence.

I had some minor irritations: despite the US setting and points of view, Grimwood repeatedly uses the word knickers for a woman’s underwear and has characters use the epithet ‘a shit’ about others, along with other British usages. As a result I didn’t really feel I was reading about Americans. Amusingly, there is also the quite magnificent malapropism of proprietaries for proprieties. Sadly, there was a span count of 1.

While it doesn’t match the peak of Stamping Butterflies, in 9Tail Fox Grimwood delivers what you would expect from reading others of his ouevre. If you like his writing you won’t be disappointed.

The Man In The Mirror

It’s been hard to escape Michael Jackson over the past couple of days. The coverage has been almost wall to wall. The press and media just love something like this – but they take it too far.

I must confess I wasn’t much of a fan of Jackson’s music though I’ve heard lots of it of course.

I don’t know what he saw when he looked at his reflection (I suppose very few of us do like what we see in the mirror) but he was clearly a troubled soul.

Life in the showbiz spotlight can’t be fun; plus he had no childhood to speak of. With all that fame and money it must be difficult to find true friends. It’s no wonder he began to act out his hype.

It would be interesting to find out if Jarvis Cocker had mellowed towards him any. I suspect not.

Michael Jackson 1958-2009. So it goes.

Confederations Cup (4) Spain 0 USA 2

Free State Stadium, Mangaung, Bloemfontein

It’€™s not going to be a Spain vs Brazil final, then.
Whether this result is a reflection of the imbalance in the two groups only today’€™s South Africa-Brazil game will tell. The USA were worth this win, though, hardly allowing Spain a chance.
Spain increasingly resembled the old teams of bottlers who never quite stepped up to the big occasion.
I’€™d noticed earlier they were missing Senna. Iniesta too. That might make a difference next year.
Nil desperandum amigos; apparently Confederations Cup winners never do well at the following World Cup.
One further thought about the Italy-USA group match, it now seems the sending off told most.
And I wish the commentators would shut up about the vuvuzelas (those horns the South African spectators blow continually.) As it’s easy to blank out as background, I barely notice the noise.

Mutant Scum!

Below is the blurb promotional material for Writers’ Bloc’s latest gig. Yes we are busy bees. It’s a special show in connection with the genomics forum. And I will be reading a little something…


WHAT: Mutant Scum! Live readings of original fiction

WHO: Writers’ Bloc spoken-word performance group, plus guests Ken MacLeod and Pippa Goldschmidt

WHERE: Pleasance Cabaret Bar, 60 the Pleasance, Edinburgh EH8 9TJ

WHEN: 7:45 p.m., Thursday 2 July 2009

HOW MUCH: £3.00 (£2.00 concessions)


or find us on Facebook!

What do the following words have in common: zipper, mad/max, hip/hop, agnostic, werewolf, mindbomb, tigger, brokenheart and zinc finger? They’re all names of genes.

DNA databases, designer babies, GM foods, genes “for” this trait or that, the human genome, evolution — they’re all in the headlines. Genetic screening and paternity tests already affect many people’s family lives. Genomics is everywhere. You could almost say it’s in our DNA…

Writers’ Bloc is proud to present a night of literary mayhem featuring original fiction that gives the double helix an extra twist.

ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum Writers in Residence Ken MacLeod and Pippa Goldschmidt will be special guest performers for the evening. The show will also feature new fiction by Writers’ Bloc stalwarts including Jack Deighton, Gavin Inglis, Stefan Pearson and Andrew J. Wilson.

Expect genetically modified footballers, an investigation of whether death is an acquired trait and something that can only be described as Gattaca for neds…

Notes for Editors:
Writers’ Bloc is Edinburgh’s premier spoken-word performance group. Its members include published and prize-winning poets and novelists, who present original material with attitude.

For more information:


The Trouble With Kurt Cobain and Nirvana (2)

Apart from calling his band Nirvana I once thought that Cobain’€™s use of the song title Smells Like Teen Spirit was pretty cool, a nice metaphorical touch. Then I found out Teen Spirit is actually some sort of American deodorant.

Not so cool at all, then. (Except under the arms of course.)

Here is the real Nirvana‘s track, Pentecost Hotel, their second single.

Confederations Cup (3) Egypt 0 USA 3: Italy 0 Brazil 3

Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg: Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Tshwane, Pretoria

In the words of Sir Alex, “Football. Bloody hell!”

A six goal swing is beyond remarkable.

I spent the night game-hopping and managed to catch four of the goals live and the other two on the first replay.

Italy did not defend like Italy. On the other hand Brazil attacked like Brazil. Italy reverting to white shorts and socks improved neither their luck nor their performance. Buffon was in brown, though; it really is very strange.

Egypt’s goalkeeper El Hadary saved them from a worse defeat even if he made a mistake for the first USA goal.

A Spain vs Brazil final could be tasty.

Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre

Little, Brown, 1996

(The pictured cover is of a paperback edition not the hardback one I read.)

Like Brookmyre’s A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away, this is another library book sale buy (from a month or so ago.)

Jack Parlabane, an investigative journalist on the run from persons unknown who tried to have him killed in Los Angeles, accidentally encroaches on a bizarre murder scene in Edinburgh. Along with the woman DC who discovers him there and the wife of the deceased he investigates the background to the killing. That’s it really.

Quite Ugly One Morning‘s style is similar to A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away though here the jocular tone is a bit more at odds with the content – but the body count is high in both, even if in this one the killings are mostly off-stage.

This was Brookmyre’s first novel and has some first novel’s faults. With his seeming determination to dot every i and cross every t it’s apparent that Brookmyre was trying a bit too hard but Quite Ugly One Morning is a light, easy, uncomplicated and gratifyingly not overlong read, with dashes of humour thrown in. I did chortle out loud once or twice. Ideal stuff for relaxing into and whiling a few hours away.

Confederations Cup (2) Egypt 1 Italy 0

Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg

Italy looked tired to me. They do have an ageing team and it was only two days since their last game. They did have a few chances to score but couldn’t convert.

Egypt were right on it, though. Their goalkeeper, Al Hadary, had a couple of good saves. Egypt took the one clear chance they had – more what Italian teams are supposed to do.

The commentators, though!

How much more patronising can you get?

Is it really a surprise that Egypt won this? They gave Brazil a fright, after all.

Et Tu, Populi?

How do you pronounce the past tense of the verb “to eat?” (I mean you in particular, not you in the general sense.)

Like nearly everybody else where I grew up I have always followed the usual rules of English orthography in this instance and so pronounce the word the way it is spelled – in other words exactly as in the way I say the number 8. In any conversations I’ve had with others I have never failed to be understood when using ate in that way.

So why do others say “et?” How on Earth can the letter combination -ate be transmogrified in this way? And why do the same people not say, for example, I waited with betted breath, or my curiosity was setted, or he suffered a dreadful fet?

It’s nonsense. I never et a meal in my life. I ate quite a lot, though.

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