Archives » 2010 » June

Advance Notice

Here’s the press release for Writers’ Bloc’s latest show. The poster is a nice touch, I think.

Planet of the Apps: New Stories of Antisocial Media — Writers’ Bloc announces an evening of spoken word with a technological twist.

Planet Of The Apps

Expect new stories about: next-generation Nigerian 409 scams; burlesque-themed alien abductions; stalkings via social media; park keepers dealing with digital debris; and a steamy extension to the Dewey Decimal System, all performed with Bloc’s trademark energy and verve.

Planet of the Apps takes place at the Ghillie Dhu, 2-6 Rutland Place, Edinburgh EH1 2AD, on Wednesday 21st July from 8pm. Admission is an affordable £4 (£2 concessions.)

Authors appearing include: Hannu Rajaniemi, whose first novel The Quantum Thief is released by Gollancz in September; Andrew J. Wilson, co-editor of Nova Scotia: New Scottish Speculative Fiction; Morag Edward, winner of the Highlands and Islands Short Story Competition; and audience favourites Andrew C. Ferguson, Gavin Inglis and Stefan Pearson.

A live Twitter feed will be projected during the event. Bring your mobile!

For further information see the Writers’ Bloc web site:

Spain 1-0 Portugal

Green Point Stadium, Cape Town, 29/6/10.

This could have been a good game but Portugal were content to let Spain keep the ball and pass it in front of them, restricting the Spanish to long range shots for the most part and as a consequence it failed to be a spectacle.

For all their vaunted passing (up blind alleys most of the time it has to be said) it was funny how Spain only began really to get at Portugal after they replaced Torres with Llorente and started humping it up to the big man.

The commentator (Guy Mowbray?) opined that Piqué was maybe a weak link for Spain. Personally I think given what I saw of his performance in the Switzerland game (and all of the Honduras one) Carles Puyol may have passed his peak.

Like most goalkeepers at this World Cup, apart from Julio Cesar, and Eduardo in this one, Casillas looked iffy too.

Two day break, now. I’ll be getting withdrawal symptoms.

Edited to add: even in real time I thought David Villa was offside at the back heel to him before the goal. We didn’t get the relevant stop-motion replay till after the game, though. Funny that, isn’t it?

Departures by Harry Turtledove

Del Rey, 1993. 352p.

This is a collection of short stories varying considerably in length. All are divertissements, some much more light-heartedly intended than others.

While some are future based SF, many are historically rooted (in the counterfactual sense) but some are fantasy rather than SF – one features a werewolf, another the Devil. Two have scenarios involving baseball; one of these – a Ring Lardner pastiche apparently – is almost incomprehensible to someone not au fait with the game’s idiosyncrasies, or indeed Ring Lardner’s oeuvre.

The most intriguing premise has a certain religion’s main prophet becoming instead a Christian monk and (whisper it) Islam failing to be born. This was a universe Turtledove mined extensively for his Agent Of Byzantium stories the seventh of which, Pillar Of Cloud, Pillar Of Fire (otherwise uncollected?) appears here.

In passing it’s nice to know that the Lizards from Turtledove’s World War:Balance and Colonisation books were actually inspired by ancient Persians (see Potsherds, the first story in this book.)

Departures is light reading only – which I need at this time of year.

Brazil 3-0 Chile

Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, 28/6/10

This was a bit like last night’s game. One side bright and passing neatly, the other breaking quickly. Brazil are much more solid at the back than Argentina, though.

Chile flattered to deceive. In the end their passing went on too long and they were often crowded out. They had a marked reluctance to shoot, trying to carve out the perfect scoring opportunity or essaying an overambitious pass. They went down the middle too often and didn’t use width enough.

Brazil are getting more and more impressive.

Argentina 3-1 Mexico

Soccer City, Johannesburg, 27/6/10

This game drew a red line through the assertion that Argentina are a one man team. Apart from an effort in time added on, Lionel Messi was barely in evidence. The Argentines have plenty enough fire power without him.

The result was tough on Mexico who played very bright and attractive stuff.

Yes, Tevez was in an offside position for the first goal but the flag did not go up and so he wasn’t offside. The second was a poor piece of defensive play but the third was a belter.

The best goal though, possibly one of the best of the tournament, was Javier Hernandez’s consolation for Mexico. He looks a talented player.

Quite why the “offside” goal was played on the giant screen at the ground I’ve no idea. Controversial decisions or inflammatory incidents aren’t supposed to be. (Zidane’s head butt in the final four years ago wasn’t.)

In any case, had this been a Scottish Second Division game no one would have been any the wiser. There, the players just have to get on with it with no confirmed sense of grievance.

Replays in order to “improve” decisions are impractical. Who’s going to put up a big screen at Links Park?

Not So Wicked

An incident in the football last night reminded me of the poster advert which WKD vodka is running to coincide with the World Cup.

It’s headed, “The offside rule for girls.”

Below is the punchline.

“If the flag’s up, it’s offside.”


Sorry WKD. Isn’t that the offside rule for boys as well?

Germany 4-1 England

Free State Stadium, Maungang/Bloemfontein, 27/6/10

Well, this humiliation was coming.

Here, after dismal performances against the USA, Algeria and (despite some whistling in the dark) Slovenia, a bunch of over-blown, over-paid, cosseted individuals who perhaps believe their own hype too much but played as if they’d never seen each other before were roundly horsed by an opposition who worked together as a team and actually looked as if they knew what they were doing.

Yes, the ball was over the line from Frank Lampard’s shot but it wasn’t a goal. It wasn’t a goal because the ref didn’t give it. End of debate.

And forget about goal line technology. It’s not needed. For big games like this the fifth ref – as introduced in the Europa League this season – would surely have spotted this one.

Back to the game.

There was a telling stat which unrolled a few minutes before Germany scored.

Shots: Germany 4 England 0.

Yet England had had the greater share of possession. They simply couldn’t do anything with it.

At half time I was thinking that Argentina would probably take both of them. Germany’s confidence will have an almighty boost now, though. A 4-1 win does that to you. And we’ll see how Argentina fare against Mexico tonight.

As far as England is concerned, was it a case of good players not living up to their potential?

Maybe it’s really that they’re not actually very good, that in their club sides they are surrounded by people of other nationalities who make them look better than they are.

Anyway, I can relax and enjoy the competition now. No more references to 1966 to spoil it.

Friday On My Mind 12: Peaceful

This is one of my favourites of the lesser known 1960s songs.
Not a big brassy sound like the huge hits Get Away and Yeh Yeh just quiet and restrained in the Sitting In The Park mould.

Georgie Fame : Peaceful

Denmark 1-3 Japan

Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg, 24/6/10

A thoroughly deserved win for Japan. Denmark were turgid, uncreative and pedestrian. The Japanese were quick, bright and incisive, passing the ball delightfully, and in Keisuke Honda had the best player on the pitch – though some of the other Japanese ran him close. If it weren’t likely to be construed as politically incorrect I’d have said the Japanese were nippy. The Danes weren’t at the races.

Their first two were magnificent strikes (goalkeeping aberrations accepted) but Japan’s third goal was a thing of beauty, Honda turning the Danish defender inside out and giving Thomas Sorensen the eyes before laying it on a plate for Okazaki.

(Speaking of un-PC-ness, what was it with the Germans and that black outfit in the Ghana game? I know it’s one of the colours on their flag but a black uniform on Germans has unfortunate resonances. What was wrong with their traditional green second strip?)

And what odds could I have got on New Zealand going through their group unbeaten?

As I thought in game 1, Italy were vulnerable at the back. Buffon’s absence probably didn’t help them. At least they weren’t wearing that sky blue effort – not to mention the brown shorts – they had at the Confederations Cup.

And France went out early as I expected.

More 1966-all-over-again nonsense to endure from the commentariat.

At least until Sunday.

Nigeria 2-2 Republic of Korea

Durban Stadium, Durban, 22/6/10

I couldn’t bear to watch the Argentina-Greece game as Greece are so negative. I opted for this one instead and it was a cracker, both teams going for the win.

Yakubu Ayegbeni had a Chris Iwelumo moment (yes, it was possible for someone else to miss such a sitter) but was able to atone with a penalty a minute or so later.

The overall spectacle was spoiled somewhat by the commentariat (Simon Brotherton, Mark Bright, Garth Crooks, Martin Keown and Dan Walker?) all obviously wanting Nigeria to win; so much so it distorted Brotherton and Bright’s commentary.

From their first attack – when they nearly scored – South Korea had looked bright and dangerous and always threatened the Nigerian goal. Yet the commentary insisted that Nigeria were dominating. They did look good for a spell after their first half goal but normal service was soon resumed and South Korea deservedly equalised. It wasn’t until South Korea took the lead that a change of tack was heard. After Nigeria’s equaliser it was back to the earlier type utterings despite South Korea having as many chances to win the game.

A very enjoyable watch nonetheless. This was 2-2 going on 5-5.

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