Confederations Cup 2017 and VAR

I’ve been watching this year’s edition of the Confederations Cup. Well I missed the first half of the first game and of today’s.

The games have been fairy enjoyable. Well, Russia-New Zealand was a bit of a mismatch and Russia fairly plodding. The results in the other ties have been about right. Mexico and Portugal seemed evenly matched and both Chile and Germany deserved their wins though Germany’s decision to go with a young squad might have backfired on them. (Actually, who am I kidding? They’re Germans.) IUnusually it did provide the spectacle of a German goalkeeper who wasn’t on top of his game.

The main topic of conversation among the pundits though has been the suppose dshortcomings of the video assistant referee system, VAR, being used at the competetion. A welcome innovation I’d have thought.

It’s only a trial, though. There are bound to be teething problems.

So far when it has been employed it has got the decisions correct – as is intended. Those occasions were when the ball was dead after the referee’s original decision and there was therefore no interruption to the game, only a slight delay in restarting.

The possible penalty incident in the Russia-New Zealand game – which the ref didn’t opt to have reviewed – did not fall into that category. If he did receive advice that he “might want to look at the incident” (it actually wouldn’t be him – it would be the assistants) that would have been in the course of ongoing play. In effect that makes the video assistant the actual referee. And when does the referee then blow the whistle?

And what would have happened if he had so opted and on the subsequent video review the decision was “no penalty”? Would that not make a mockery of the review? And where would play restart?

Better to leave the referee to it and restrict any such interventions to times when the ball is dead.

Such reviews are all very well in the case of Rugby, League or Union, where stoppages can be relatively common. Football is a much more fluid game, not so amenable to interruption.

Friday on my Mind 151: A Touch Of Velvet – A Sting Of Brass

A track by Mark Wirtz – he of the Teenage Opera – released as by The Mood Mosaic.

It seems this was used as the theme music for a German TV show called Musikladen among others.

How sixties does this sound?

Mood Mosaic: A Touch Of Velvet – A Sting Of Brass

Honfleur

Honfleur is in many ways a quaint old town. I liked the contrast with this old (and, to me, Spanish looking) building at the corner of the harbour and the yellow motor bike:-

Old Building, Honfleur

We found this fantastic iron gate (one of a pair obviously) at a side alley:-

Ornate Iron Gates, Honfleur, Normandy, France

The side alley:-

Side Alley, Honfleur

A typical narrow street:-

Typical Narrow Street, Honfleur

But there were some open spaces:-

Tree-lined Square, Honfleur

And it wouldn’t have been complete without a touch of old France. A Clochemerle style outside toilet. (The grey hut behind is an inside toilet):-

toilets

Swastika Night by Murray Constantine

Gollancz SF Masterworks, 2016, 198 p, including 4 p introduction by Michael Dirda.

The title page says “by Katharine Burdekin writing as Murray Constantine” though the revelation of the author as Burdekin was not made till many years after the book’s first publication in 1937. The pseudonymous publication may have been because of the threat of repercussions due to her anti-fascist views or for the usual reasons a female might adopt a male name when writing.

 Swastika Night cover

Swastika Night is an extrapolation from the time of writing of what Nazism might have led to. Considering the little that was known of fascism’s excesses at the time it was written it is remarkably insightful and prophetic of what unchecked fascism could very well have developed into.

As a result of their victory in the Twenty Year War, seven hundred years in the future, Germany and Japan still rule the world between them. In Germany and its European, Middle Eastern and African dominions Hitler is a God. A seven foot tall blond God, who never had anything to do with women. Women in this future Germany have no purpose except for breeding – and no inclination for anything else as it has been bred out of them.

The book is told mainly through the eyes of an ordinary German, Hermann, and the English friend, Alfred, he made when posted to England five years before. Alfred is on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land (Germany) and attracts the interest of the local ruler the Knight Friedrich von Hess who is the keeper of a secret about the real historical Hitler. Through von Hess, the author lays out how a relatively nondescript man was transformed into godhood and historical truth obliterated to ensure the domination of the party line. In its depiction of the manipulation of history this prefigures some of the works of Philip K Dick.

Burdekin’s appreciation of the most important struggle Nazism was to face is shown by the line, “But Russia after the most tremendous struggle in history, was finally beaten.” We also have, “von Hess says the Germans have always been inclined to hysteria” and “unshakable, impregnable empire has always been the dream of virile nations.” This of course can be read as an indictment of virility.

There is not much by way of action and a large part of the book is given over to philosophising but it never fails to maintain the reader’s interest.

As an illustration of the dangers of totalitarianism, of the vigilance needed to maintain standards of truth, Swastika Night is as potent as 1984 and, in 2017, sadly as relevant a critique in the here and now as it was when first published.

Pedant’s corner:- “the real difference there is that divides men from beasts” (what divides makes more sense,) asleep (asleep,) sobered down (sobered,) routed out (rooted out is now more usual for this sense,) the Scarts of the Coolins (Cuillins, I’m puzzled by Scarts though,) ‘Row bonny boat like a bird on the wing’ (it’s Speed bonnie boat, but seven hundred years might have caused a lapse in memory.)
Phantasy – how good to see the old spelling.

Pont Du Normandie

I didn’t look behind us as we strolled fom the SS Black Watch to Honfleur. When we got to town I saw a sign to Pont du Normandie but I hadn’t realised how close it was.

I soon found out when we walked a bit west from Honfleur harbour:-

Pont du Normandie from Honfleur

The bridge was very obvious when we were walking back to the ship but the best view was from the deck once we were back on board:-

Pont du Normandie from Seine at Honfleur

Later in the afternoon the lighting conditions had changed. The rain clouds had gone away.

Pont du Normandie in Sunshine

Over the other side of the River Seine near to Le Havre I could see this road bridge. Morning aspect:-

Road Bridge near Le Havre

The same bridge in the afternoon’s lighting conditions:-

Road Bridge near Le Havre

Awaydays

I’ve been away again.

A week in Orkney with the good lady, the furthest north either of us have been in Britain.

I have been further north (Stockholm and St Petersburg – or Leningrad, as it was then – since you ask; and the good lady has been to Bergen.)

Orkney was fantastic – lots to see and do. The landscape is a bit odd to a soft southerner. It took us a while to get used to the lack of trees. There are some trees on Orkney – mostly maples and usually in sheltered spots – but the hills are all bare. And you are never far from water.

The weather was all over the place though. Great sunshine for the first two days then it rained for the next two then there was another one of sun before the next saw a driving rain storm catch us on the Brough of Birsay. Still it apparently was dismal for the whole week where we live, so we escaped that.

Garnethill by Denise Mina

Orion, 2014, 427 p.

One of the 100 best Scottish Books. One of Scotland’s favourite books.

 Garnethill cover

Maureen O’Donnell is an abuse survivor in a relationship with a psychiatrist at the same hospital where she is receiving treatment for her continuing trauma. After a night out with a friend she tumbles straight into bed and wakes up in the morning to find her (married) boyfriend tied up in her living room with his throat slit. The police, the man’s wife and politician mother all believe Maureen, or her drug dealing brother, did it. In an attempt to make sure her name is cleared Maureen begins to investigate the crime herself.

The proximal subject matter, sexual abuse in institutions, is an important issue but I am astonished that this book could appear on anyone’s list of best or favourites as Mina’s writing leaves a lot to be desired. There is a profusion of telling not showing plus acres of unconvincing dialogue. Chapter titles tend to be people’s names but quite often those people barely appear within them. Every time there is a police interview we are told about the tape recording protocol. It is as if Mina believes the reader must be shown every little detail of her hero’s experience. We really don’t. In what must surely be a breach of police good practice one of the investigating officers conveniently gives her privileged information.

The novel is set in Glasgow but the city itself seems absent. None of its vibrancy or character comes across. Also there are constant references to the Byres Road, the Great Western Road, the Maryhill Road. No Glaswegian I have met has ever mentioned a street by name and used the definite article. It’s always just Byres Road, Great Western Road, Maryhill Road. No “the”.

Yes, the purpose of this sort of thing is the unfolding of the plot and the unravelling of “whodunit” and in this respect it just about meets the need. Yet even here there was a hiccup. Quite near the novel’s end Maureen is told the name of the murderer by one of her interviewees but Mina does not let the reader know it at that point. I don’t read much crime fiction but I would submit such an attempt to prolong suspense artificially is unfair on the reader. (That the murderer’s identity could be worked out fairly easily vitiated that attempt in any case.)

The more the book progressed the harder my suspension of disbelief became. Towards the end I wasn’t believing any of it.

Moreover the book is riddled with punctuation errors (see Pedant’s corner.) The edition I read was a reprint; the latest of numerous editions. (Goodreads lists well over ten.) How can these errors not have been spotted and rooted out long before this? Does no-one care about quality control? Some might say these are niggling concerns but when they stop a reader in his/her tracks and force a line, sentence or paragraph to be re-read to decipher the sense it becomes non-trivial.

This one is for die-hard crime fans only.

Pedant’s corner:- cagoul (cagoule,) no start quote mark for a piece of dialogue (x 9,) a missing full stop (x 7,) for badness’ sake (badness’s, x 2,) butt naked (I believe the phrase is buck naked,) a missing comma before a speech quote (x 3,) snuck (please use sneaked instead of snuck,) smokey (smoky,) “really don’t want to tell you” (I really don’t want to tell you,) “for implicately slagging her mammy” (implicitly,) the team are known (is known,) teathings (tea things,) Germoline (Germolene.)

Reelin’ In the Years 137: Dear Elaine

This is something of an oddity but yet is entirely consistent with Roy Wood’s oeuvre.

Very unMove-like and far too restrained for Wizzard – which he had formed at around the same time as this – it could still be an outtake from The Electric Light Orchestra, the band’s
eponymous first album, which did contain quite a lot of acoustic plucked strings in its arrangements.

Roy Wood: Dear Elaine

Honfleur and Erik Satie

We discovered that Honfleur was the birthplace of composer Erik Satie.

It was his 150th anniversary so the house had been bedecked accordingly:-

aOld Building 8

Birthplace plaque:-

Honfleur, Erik Satie's Birthplace Plaque

The local music school is named in his honour though I see from the lettering above the central windows that it was (once) a Nursery School:-

Honfleur, Municipal Music School Erik Satie

There’s almost an Art Deco feel to this building. Canopy, long windows beside it, “jazzy” iron work on the gates:-

Honfleur, Municipal Music School Satie 2

Satie’s Gymnopédie No.1 is a lovely piece of music. I also like the animation which accompanies it here.

Erik Satie – Gymnopédie No.1

What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton

Re-reading the classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Corsair, 2015, 477 p.

 What Makes This Book So Great cover

This is a collection of Walton’s contributions to a blog on Tor.com, appearing between 15/6/2008 and 25/2/2011, in which she discussed the works of SF and fantasy she had been re-reading during that time. Her claim to be able to read up to six books in a day astonished me. If she’s doing that how does she fit in everyday life – food shopping, cooking, eating, family life, putting out the bins? Where on Earth can she find time to write fiction, or a blog post? Yes she says she sometimes spends all day in bed (I assume through illness or some debilitation) but even so. Admittedly that six was a maximum and she says she starts another book as soon as finishing the previous one. There was also the odd, to me, observation that she feels she hasn’t read a book if she hasn’t re-read it at least once; that first impressions of a book are suspect. I differ here, certainly from a later in life perspective. If a book does it for me the first time that’s fine; with perhaps a very few exceptions, if it doesn’t, a re-read is unlikely to help. My tbr pile is too high for much re-reading anyway. I also cannot read at Walton’s pace. Perhaps I pay too close an attention to the minutiae of a text; vide Pedant’s corner.

Many of Walton’s enthusiasms I doubt I would share. She spends 14 posts and over 60 pages here on Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series which has far too many volumes for me to embark upon now, and in any case I have a disrecommendation from another source. Similarly 17 posts and 53 pages on Steven Brust’s Dragaera series. Not going to happen.

Walton always writes interestingly about the subject at hand; even of books I have no desire to read (whatever her eloquence.) And “IWantToReadItosity” is a great coinage. “It’s hard to explain, is utterly subjective and is entirely separate from whether a book is actually good.” We all have such guilty pleasures.

She occasionally digresses from the SF/Fantasy remit, for example enthusing about Iain Banks’s The Crow Road and of Middlemarch opines that George Eliot would have been a great writer of Science Fiction if only she’d had the idea to invent the form.

A puff on the back cover quotes Publishers Weekly, ‘For readers unschooled in the history of SF/F, this book is a treasure trove.’ I wouldn’t disagree.

Pedant’s corner:- Various instances of “there are a number” or “there are a lot” – too many to note individually. “I admire it to no end” (if anything this means “there is no purpose to my admiration of it”. I assume Walton meant “I admire it no end.”) a missing comma before a quote (x 2,) Achilles’ (Achilles’s,) visit with (visit,) “Every culture has their own naming custom” (its own naming custom,) “and right go on into” (and go right on into,) for goodness’ sake (goodness’s.) “The Mazianni are a company fleet” (is a fleet,) “the rest of the worlsd … look on jealously” (looks on,) “The weight of significance of things … sometimes need” (needs,) “when it gets us information” (gives us,) Marilac – but two lines later Marilican Embassy (which is it; Marilac or Marilic, Marilacan or Marilican?) “global warming has deteriorated” (“the climate has deteriorated because of global warming,”) “and is decided” (either “has decided” or “is tasked with” the context isn’t entirely clear,) Katan (Katin on next page,) “‘going I know not whence’” (in a quote from Dunsany; whence means “from where” – you can’t go “from where”,) “‘to be a part of the forest. (from ‘The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for the Sacnoth’)” (no full stop after forest; or else a capital F at “from” and a full stop after Sacnoth.) “There are the sort of situations,” (the sorts of situations,) “who’s presented a great poet” (as a great poet,) elegaic (it’s spelled elegiac.) “There were a host (there was a host,) “that the British population shrink” (shrinks,) “Shute’s Britain …., indeed their ability” (its ability,) “to get away with Nicholas’s guesses to be more often right than wrong” (being more often,) to whit (to wit,) the PTA are considering (the PTA is considering,) vaccuum (vacuum,) “These are the kind of” (kinds of,) Marcus Aurelius’ (Marcus Aurelius’s,) “so that she has learned to thank people, and realise how nice” (realised,) Jesus’ (Jesus’s,) “Small Beer are definitely my favourite small press” (is definitely,) vapourised (vaporised, this is a curious error in a book full of USianisms,) ascendency (ascendancy,) philo-sophical (no hyphen) even moreso (more so.)

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