Archives » 2010 » January

Ghana 0-1 Egypt

Africa Cup of Nations, Final, 11th November National Stadium, Luanda, 31/1/10

A forgettable first half, followed by an upturn in the last twenty minutes as Ghana started to push forward having restricted Egypt and making them resort to handballs and falling over in the penalty area.

The goal when it came was a beauty, though; exquisitely taken by Gedo.

Ghana may be dark horses in the World Cup if they forsake the caution they showed here. They’ll have a fair few experienced players back by then.

Strange that Egypt are so strong in the Cup of Nations and can’t seem to qualify for the bigger event.

Culture? Moi?

Imagine my surprise when checking out the Scottish Round Up site to find that yours truly has come out No. 1 in the culture category in the Scotblogs awards.

I suppose I just about qualify for the accolade as I do discuss books and architecture in amongst all the football and pedantry.

Hermann Göring is often quoted as saying “when I hear the word culture I reach for my revolver” but that would be more than a bit extreme. However, the quote apparently comes from somewhere else.

Thanks to all who voted for me. (There must have been at least five people since the top five culture blogs were listed.)

Algeria 0-4 Egypt

Africa Cup of Nations, Semi-final, Ombaka National Stadium, Benguela, 28/1/10

Well: if the first sending-off ruined the game, the second killed it as a spectacle.

Full of incident of course:-
four goals, three sendings off, a player seeming to try to headbutt the ref. I’ve never seen that before. (But I don’t frequent the parks much.)

Egypt were the better team in the first half but only because Algeria were happy to sit back and not take the game to them. The last ten minutes of the half were something else.

Seems like refs are refs the world over.

The first sending off was harsh as the booking before had been for nothing. It was compounded by the way the penalty was taken, though. I was under the impression that the taker could not stop in the run-up to the kick; which Hosny did. The Algerian keeper appealed for the infringement which wasn’t given, while the goal was. (He should have played to the whistle of course.) I’ve looked at the law relating to penalties on FIFA’s site. No mention of the taker not being allowed to feint in the run-up. Did they change this sometime recently?

The keeper lost the heid, which he then tried to put on the ref but he was only booked.

At the start of the second half Algeria were looking quite good to make a game of it, pushing forward in a way they hadn’t at eleven men apiece, but the Egyptian second goal – lovely finish by Zidan – obviously made Belhadj lose his cool. At nine men and two goals down there’s not much hope. The game was done.

By the end it had degenerated into farce with the ref making up for not sending the keeper off by …… sending him off.

“Football. Bloody Hell.”

BSFA AWards 2010 Update

Well, here’s a noble thing. Unusual in these me! me! me! times.

No sooner has the ink dried on the BSFA ballot (we’re going to have to come up with some new metaphor for use with electronic media here) than Science Fiction Awards Watch gives us the news that Hal Duncan has withdrawn his nominated piece Ethics and Enthusiasm from the award ballot.

His reasons for this are that his blog essay is marginal to the field at best and others in the final ballot are more central and therefore more deserving of the award.

What a refreshing stance.

Good on you, big man!


Thanks to Jim Steel – see my sidebar – for this news and the link.

The BSFA Awards shortlist for 2010 has been published.

There are links to four of the short stories and to all the artworks plus various of the non fiction pieces on the ballot.

I’ll not get all the novels read and probably not all the short stories either unless the BSFA does a booklet of them like it did last year.

Ah, well.

Mobius Dick by Andrew Crumey

Picador, 2004, 312p

This book was not marketed as Science Fiction but in any straightforward reading of the term would be so, as it is fiction about Science, specifically quantum mechanics and wave functions. Science Fiction as understood, though, is not generally thought of in this light but rather as extrapolative. However, Mobius Dick fits the bill in this sense also, as its background involves a set of experiments to produce a vacuum array which can generate energies in excess of 1000 Eka-electronvolts which could lead to wave functions not collapsing on being observed and the end of the world as we know it. Fear not if you know nothing about the behaviour of subatomic particles, the necessary details are lucidly set out by Crumey in the appropriate places. (Or did I just find it lucid because I had encountered most of these ideas already? Studied them, even, when a student.)

The narrative is multi-stranded, beginning with an enigmatic text message to a physicist, John Ringer, reminding him of a lost love. Another strand is set in a hospital where patients are being treated for Anomalous Memory Disorder, AMD, a condition in which they appear to have false memories. A third contains extracts from a book by a certain “Heinrich Behring” but which is copyrighted “the British Democratic Republic 1954” and which focuses on Erwin Schrödinger. An Altered History too, then.

It is, as well, a consciously literary endeavour featuring in addition to the above; Bettina von Arnim, the composer Schuman and a letter from an unsuccessful Herman Melville to Nathaniel Hawthorne. No surprise it’s not marketed as Science Fiction. The John Ringer sections are Ballardian in tone and when he ventures into rural Scotland also have a tint of the testament of Gideon Mack, which I reviewed recently.

Crumey never pushes the connections between the sections. We are left to ourselves to infer that AMD is a manifestation of superimposed quantum states and the many worlds of uncollapsed wave functions. The characters, on opening doors etc, by and large treat any incursions into or from other worlds as if they are hallucinations, which interpretation is also entirely adequate.

The afterword, also by “Heinrich Behring,” like the sections featuring Schrödinger and Schumann, is written from the perspective of a world where Goebbels replaced Hitler, Britain was invaded but after liberation became a socialist/communist state and neither Melville nor Thomas Mann achieved critical acclaim. “Behring” depicts Schrödinger – who never amounted to much in this altered history – finding his famous (in our world) equation HΨ = EΨ in the scribblings of a madwoman.

What makes Mobius Dick ineluctably Science Fiction (whether it is labelled as such or not) is this looking in at our world, where a woman can become Britain’s PM, an actor President of the US and the many worlds theory is taken seriously, and finding it absurd.

But to label the book at all is to do it an injustice. It hums with ideas and wit, and not a few literary puns.

I haven’t been so impressed by an author new to me for a long time.

Science Fiction Versus The Detective Story (with a foray into the great Scottish divide.)

Time was when the Science Fiction crime/detective story was a rarity. This may have been because there is a fundamental disparity between the two forms. In Science Fiction the essence is that the tale is of something changed or changing, by the end of the tale the world is no longer the same. In crime fiction, by contrast, order – normality – is restored, the world is made safe again. There is also a necessary withholding of information in the crime story (or at least a need to disguise it.) In Science Fiction the more information is granted to the reader the more real the changed world seems, the more we believe in it.

The first truly successful SF crime stories that I recall were written by Larry Niven and featured teleportation booths. In A Kind of Murder the resolution and solving of the crime depends solely on a ramification of this SF element. Niven then went on to write novels featuring the detective Gil the ARM Hamilton who as the result of an accident lost one physical arm but then developed a psychic one which he subsequently used in his investigations.

Perhaps because of the infiltration of so much of what was SF into both the modern world and the modern detective story/thriller, especially televisually; perhaps because the conventions of the detective story are so embedded, the SF crime story is nowadays no longer so problematic and SF detectives are far from rare.

These thoughts were prompted by the SF book which I am reading at the moment, The Night Sessions by Ken Macleod. It has elements of the detective story and part of the action takes place in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is a marvellous setting for detective/horror/supernatural fiction as it is so wonderfully Gothic. There is the unmissable landmark of the castle brooding on its rock, Arthur’s Seat, Calton Hill with its curious, apparently unfinished buildings in the classical style, the bizarre under and over layout of the streets just off the Royal Mile, the contrast between the Old Town and the New (and nowadays the peripheral estates.) The Old Town itself has so many mediæval associations – not to mention underground warrens – several atmospheric churchyards with attached cemeteries and of course there is the bodysnatching/Burke and Hare connection; all of which make it almost perfect for the unfolding of skullduggery of various sorts. Glasgow, by contrast, while its estates are bleak, has only the area by the Cathedral which is truly old. Its streets tend to be more grid like – with no dark, tunnel-like thoroughfares analogous to The Cowgate (unless you count the Hielanman’s Umbrella.) For all its energy and (misplaced?) reputation for violence it seems so much more prosaic a place, more bustling certainly, but more modern, more down to earth, less prone to fancies.

Dumbarton 2-1 Cowdenbeath

League goals against predictor:- 82

The Rock, 23/1/10


We haven’t played for over a month, we haven’t signed anybody in the transfer window- not even a loanee – our home form has been rubbish, yet we beat the league leaders.

I’m delighted. I was fearing three goals lost as per the early season norm.

I’d also heard the half-time on the radio and resigned myself to the defeat.

Well done the lads; and especially Roddy Hunter and Ross Clark who got the goals, though according to the BBC Derek Carcary was instrumental.

Dare we hope Ross Clark will get a regular game now and return to the form of this time last year?

To make it a better day the teams below us (except for Peterhead) lost or drew. Ground gained.

Winter Break

Well those who were hankering after it have certainly had their winter shutdown.

For clubs like Dumbarton it’s been like a close season this past month – only without the friendly matches.

Fingers crossed for tomorrow.

Aston Villa 6-4 Blackburn Rovers

Villa Park, 20/1/10

Carling Cup, Semi-final, second leg.

Actually I only watched the second half, but that was profligate enough. Aston Villa 4-2 Blackburn Rovers.

This game illustrates exactly why goals ought to be difficult to score. When a game is like this it’s almost as if every time a team goes up the park there will be a goal.

I’ve seen some dire 0-0 draws but some exciting ones. Yet the worst game I ever saw was a 5-5 draw. That’s one goal every nine minutes – like the Villa-Blackburn game. The fact that Blackburn had only ten men contributed to this. Had it been a league game it might have finished 2-2 or 3-2. Being the deciding leg of a Cup tie introduced a certain abandon, and in Blackburn’s case, necessity.

High scoring – and ease of scoring – is one reason why I can’t take basketball seriously. It’s also why Rugby Union should reduce the value of the penalty goal; tries are so much harder to score. Cricket is an unusual case: while runs are relatively easy to score this is balanced by the difficulty of taking wickets. To win you have to achieve both. I believe something similar applies to baseball.

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