Monthly Archives: March 2013

DBTG who… cares about the England football team

Let’s get one thing out of the way really quickly: this is not a knee-jerk reaction to the events in Montenegro on Tuesday.  Yes, I did watch the match, and I thought that the England football team put in a pretty poor performance for the majority of the match.  People are now talking about missing out on the World Cup, even though a quick look at the fixtures makes me think that is unlikely.  However, this blog isn’t (particularly) about that match, although it is about football in general.

As of late, it has become very fashionable for footballers to find reasons not to play international matches.  Rio Ferdinand got most of the abuse when he pulled out of both of the recent qualifiers, stating that it would interfere with his training.  I think 95% of the people who read this took it for what he really meant, which is that he has a serious dislike for several members of the England/Chelsea team, following a perceived (and legally dismissed) claim of racism against his brother, and anyway, who gives a shit about a qualifier in San Marino?

However, Rio isn’t the only footballer pulling this trick.  The squad was seriously affected by “injury” withdrawals, as players queued up to tell Roy Hodgson that they couldn’t play.  I have long held a suspicion that players use illness/injury as an excuse to get out of undesirable matches, ever since the London riots in 2011.  Frank Lampard (and please bear in mind this is all from memory) cried off an international friendly a few days before the start of the Premier League, citing a bout of flu as his excuse.  However, the international was cancelled due to the riots, and Frank made a miraculous recovery to play for Chelsea 3 days later.  I have had flu and it is not the sort of thing you recover from fully in 3 days.  Maybe it was a mis-diagnosis, but also maybe it was the case that Frank/Chelsea didn’t want to risk one of their star players in a meaningless match.  If they said that, of course, the press (and the FA) would crucify them, but if he’s ill then no one can say anything, and it would be seen as pretty churlish if an independent doctor was sent over to verify the claim…

In case you think I am in any way biased about this, please consider my view of Gareth Bale (as a Spurs fan).  I love the fact that this guy has transformed from a “cursed” player to undoubtedly the team’s top talent and reason for any success in the past couple of seasons.  It makes me very happy to see him scoring goals in the lily white shirt.  However, he and I are both British, and I don’t think I will ever forgive him for his behaviour during the 2012 London Olympics.  He was expected to be a key part of the British football team, which was reformed specifically for this event.  He could have had a chance to win an Olympic medal, until disaster struck!  Spurs declared him injured and unavailable, a call that became more and more transparent when match reports showed him playing 90 minutes for Spurs in pre-season friendlys in the USA during the Olympics.  I am still incredibly saddened that he/the club chose to play in a meaningless (though surely far more lucrative) game in New York when eternal glory could have been his in London.  Some fans may think I’m over-reacting, but I loved the Olympics, and I don’t understand his rationale at all.

I used to think this behaviour was absolutely disgraceful.  Any English boy would love the chance to play for his country on Wembley, no?  However unlikely it would be, I know no one who would turn the chance down.  I hated to see this selfish, over-pampered wankers turning their back on something that most of us would to anything to be a part of. 

However, I have recently changed my view on this.  There are a couple of reasons for this:

 

  1. England suck! Come on, you know they do.  The likelihood of England winning a major trophy during my lifetime is incredibly small (maybe nil?).  It actually must be quite frustrating to be in the England team.  You are not the best in the world, yet people expect you to be.  Opposition celebrate 0-0 draws against you as though they have slain a mighty dragon, and yet the best teams in the world hope they draw you in the knockouts because they know how easily you crumble.  Ask Spain, Brazil, Germany, even France and Holland which England players they would swap into their team, and I doubt you’d get many answers.  I can’t really blame the players for not wanting to be part of such mediocrity.
  2. They’re effectively gambling with their livelihood, for very limited gain. 

 

To try and justify this second point, let me give you an example:  Ever since it became clear that I was not a footballing genius, I have had a kind of (non-sexual) fantasy; that I could instantly become incredible at anything I chose to take up.  Because I’m a bit weird, my choice with the superpower was to take up football, become an international superstar to rival Messi and Pele, earn MILLIONS of pounds, and use my position and wealth to do some good for the world.  I am serious, that if I found myself earning £250,000 a week, I would probably keep my earnings from the first 3 months.  Buy a nice (but not ridiculous house), a great car, put some money aside to get my kids (as yet not in existence, but still) through university etc.  After this, I would symbolically keep one week’s wages per year (still more than enough to live VERY comfortably on), and the rest would be donated to my newly set up charity, which would do really great things across the world. 

Now, I don’t know exactly how much could be accomplished with £13m a year, but I reckon it is quite a bit. Add on to that advertising and earnings for my expert punditry, and the number could be even higher.  Now imagine that I get asked to play in the qualifier in San Marino.  England will of course win, whoever plays, and the only unusual outcome that I can imagine is that I get a Dean Ashton-esque injury (he was injured in training with the England team which ultimately led to his retirement) and I lose the opportunity to cure malaria or something.  I don’t pretend to believe that all (or any really) footballers are this generous with their earnings, if you own a Bentley with a custom camouflage paint job in a world where kids starve to death every day, I think you’re a knob.  But they too value the position they find themselves in, and it probably seems stupid to piss off your employer/risk your career, even if the odds of it happening are very slim, to play a game that will be remembered by very few people at all. 

And that’s why I don’t really care about the England football team.  I am not frustrated with their performances (although I am, but as a Spurs fan this does not feel in anyway unusual), but I have found an appreciation for the privileged, but short-lived position the players find themselves in, and know that if I was in the same, I wouldn’t so much as run for a bus in case I lost the position forever.

Incidentally, I still haven’t forgiven Gareth Bale.  All players want to play the World Cup games – no one would cry off that opportunity, including myself.  You may argue that the Olympics aren’t at the same level, but I disagree.  If you have a problem with that, start a blog.

DBTG who… likes the antiques roadshow

I do not like the antiques roadshow. Not one bit.  Sorry to continue the mini-theme of television coverage, but I turned on the tv briefly last night at around 6pm only to be forced to turn it back off in disgust after ploughing through about 4 minutes of this stupid, awful show. 

Middle England has, for as long as I can remember, had an appalling fascination with antiques and heirlooms.  I will never understand why, in a world where I can easily purchase just about anything I need (within reasonable affordability constraints), we continue to fuss over ancient items that have no use.  Historically, people would pass on a bone china tea set, because the cost of buying a new one was huge, and it could easily take months for the replacement to arrive.  Hence people would persevere with the chipped version that they inherited, instead of replacing it.  That all makes sense, but nowadays, that is not the reason for the misty-eyed attachment to these artefacts. 

I don’t mind particularly if the items are useable; when my wife and I bought our first home, my Father gave us an electric drill and stepladder to facilitate the myriad of DIY jobs that I would soon be messing up.  They are, to use AR parlance, “full of character”, but also, fully functional.  Never mind that I could easily replace both items for the cost of an evening out, I don’t need to because these older items still work.  However, you will notice that the antiques on display never work, they are never functional, and are instead most of the time, broken, covered in rust or dust and often barely recognisable.

The antiques roadshow is the preserve of only a very small sub-section of the population.  If you observe the audience on the television show, you will notice that they are exclusively white (seriously, this show must be the least racially diverse thing on television) and either elderly or a family with gormless children who (bizarrely) show an interest in collecting old coins or fountain pens (or something equally pointless).  Either way, they are a type of person for whom a trip to a stately home is an exciting day out.  It takes a very specific sort of person to be given an option of taking a day trip to (in yesterday’s example) an old naval base, or just not going, and choose the former.  The show in question was filmed on a beautifully sunny day which by rights should have been spent in the park or beer garden, but instead you elect to stand motionless behind Fiona Bruce and practice your “wow” face on camera.

The worst part about AR is that they insist on applying value to absolutely everything that they bring in.  This annoys me because the owner of the antique is not particularly interested in the value, except as an exercise in boastfulness.  If you thought your grandfather’s pocket watch was worth thousands of pounds, you wouldn’t wait for the BBC to bus an expert to your home town, you’d go and actively find out.  And if you didn’t think it was valuable, you probably wouldn’t seek humiliation on national television.  Worst of all, the vast majority of people are not the sort of person to whom a £300 valuation is going to make a huge difference.  Admittedly, you do hear about people who discover that the ballerina figurine they have been using to hang their keys on is actually worth half a million pounds (to whom, I ask?), but mostly these middle class pensioners are living in relative luxury and their lives will not be affected by the knowledge that their knick-knacks are worth more than their grandson’s first car.

The second worst part about the show is that it is totally unnecessary.  Daytime TV (which, by rights, is where the program belongs) is already overflowing with entire channels devoted to antique hunting, where idiots wearing colourful fleeces get ripped off by antiques dealers.  Seriously, professional dealers must rub their hands with glee when someone comes to their shop wearing a “Bargain Hunter” jacket.  It is a license to double all prices in your store.  There is a good reason why they don’t bother to put price tags on anything…

But it wouldn’t be so bad if there was anything else on instead.  There is a blackspot on Sunday afternoons where you can only watch songs of praise followed by AR, or (inevitably) go and do something else.  Other channels, inexplicably, do nothing to attempt to compete at this time, as though they have all agreed that only white haired people watch television for this period.  I am a young man, with very few responsibilities, and yet I do not tend to go out on Sunday evening.  It is a time for ironing shirts and being quietly annoyed that you have to go back to work, and the TV scheduling does nothing to make this any easier.  Please will somebody sort this out? I just want one channel out of sixty to show something vaguely entertaining, is that really too much to ask?

DBTG who … does gig reviews on his blog

My blog, my rules.  This may be a new thing for this blog, or it may be a one-off. wait and see…

Last night I went to the Borderline in London (just off Tottenham Court Road) to see Make do and Mend, supported by Daylight and Chain of Flowers. First off, a word about the venue.  It is a pleasant place to be.  Small enough to be intimate, and actually approach the stage, sufficiently well-appointed that the sound quality was excellent, and excellent lines of sight, with the exception of the area behind a (structural?) pillar.  -1 for the fact that the barlady blatantly ignored me in the bar queue.  I guess my face had already conveyed my order of “just a tap water” to her, demoting me in the strict social hierarchy that exists in these scenarios.

ALso worth giving credit to the promoter (or whoever made the decisions) to enforce a 10:30pm curfew, which allowed me to get home before midnight, and a 15 minute stage change between bands who, more amazingly, were punctual in adhering to the stage times, and meant the waiting around was limited. so that was nice.

I had planned to arrive to this gig late, in an attempt to miss Chain of Flowers.  No such luck.  Thanks to the strict timetable in place, I managed to catch the second half of their set.  I had listened to the songs on their facebook page, and I knew that they were not my thing. At all.  Sorry guys if you’re reading this (which you’re not), but there’s no getting around this.  I don’t wish to criticise any band for playing music – someone enjoys your output, even if it is only yourself, and I genuinely appreciate that being in a band involves effort.  This all said, I will say a few words:

If you are going to form a British grunge/pop band, you need to be prepared for Idlewild comparisons. And here goes: Chain of Flowers were very reminiscent of Idlewild!  However, where Roddy Woomble chooses to sing melodies, the lead vocalist for CoF instead elected for the off-key approach more associated with Joy division and the Smiths.  I didn’t like it.  It was difficult to gauge the crowd’s reaction, as the majority of check shirt-wearing people in the room were studiously gazing at their own shoes.  Not necessarily a bad sign, given that this is how you are supposed to appreciate this type of tune.

Next up were Spanish pop punk band daylight. I was much more prepared to enjoy this sort of thing, even if the choreographed jumps and kicks were something of a guilty pleasure.  When tuning up, the surprisingly Amercian-sounding members of the band all simultaneously asked for their guitars to be turned up in the mix.  The drummer clearly took this as a challenge, and between them they tested the venue’s stacks to their limits.  As they started, it soon became clear that this band were not Spanish, or pop-punk aficionados.  They were in fact American rock band Daylight.  This humble blogger had been caught out in his preparation for the gig, with disastrous consequences!  As with the other supports, I’m sorry to say that Daylight failed to impress.  Their rock/metal sounds kept descending into sludgy grunge, particularly when the rhythm guitarist took over singing duties. At one point, I was convinced I was listening to a Nirvana cover, except that I didn’t know the song. Any delicacy in their musicianship had been tidily removed by the volume brinkmanship that they had earlier engaged in.  There were hints of some high-end tweaky bits, but it wasn’t obvious whether I was hearing notes played, or feedback from the on-stage mics.  I doubt anyone not wearing earplugs (alright, grandpa!) even noticed. Ultimately, the set was not unlike Renee Zellweger’s filmography: not entirely without merit, but oddly forgettable. Note: it was also during this set that the only stage-dive took place.  A young man took to the stage and prepared to fling himself back into the crowd.  Although it was clear that crowd density was insufficient, committed, he went ahead anyway, and to his credit, got up quickly after acquainting himself with the pit floor. A lesser man would have stepped down, or not got up there in the first place, so kudos to you mystery jackass!

Finally, on came Make Do and Mend, the only band I was really interedted in seeing anyway.  And I am happy to say I enjoyed their set.  The band’s music is a type that seems to take on increased meaning when listened to first-hand in this setting.  Hearing them shout the tortured vocals in person reminds you that this isn’t (necessarily) an exercise in generating teenage angst and album sales, this music has come from somewhere.  The set was a great mix of the best songs off their two albums, and I can’t think of any top tunes that were missed off the list.  The guys played tighter than a good analogy and the crowd responded as you would expect, having had the excitement raised to level: funereal by the previous bands.

The only criticism I would choose to make is that it was all over by 10:15pm.  I got an early train, and saw a good 50 minutes of MDAM, but given the circumstances, the crowds’ chants of “One More Song” could easily have been answered.  No big deal though.

DBTG who… likes Formula One

Formula fucking One.  Sorry to start with such profanity, but those three words neatly sum up my views on the subject.  Every year, right about now, I get reminded about the never-ending sequence of non-events that is the F1 racing calendar.
It annoys me for so, so many reasons that I feel the need to list them numerically rather than simply rant about it free-form:

1.       It is boring as fuck.  You can’t escape this fact when considering motor-racing.  As far as I’m concerned, it is little more than a high-speed parade of funny shapes covered in corporate messages.  The majority of the time, they aren’t even racing.  They’re practicing, or taking part in time trials, or actually parading around behind a safety car.  There is very limited “action” on the track over the course of a weekend, and it says an awful lot about any sport when the spectators wish for crashes and fireballs – sacrificing their idols simply to create something worth looking at.

And can you imagine actually being a spectator at the race track, instead of watching on TV? It is my idea of hell on earth.  Petrol fumes burning the inside of your nostrils, your bald spot exposed to the whims of the weather, ending up either sunburnt or soaked in torrential rain (sometimes both!).  All suffered through so that you can wave a giant flag declaring your allegiance to something as soul-less as a car manufacturer, and in the end, you get to see precisely jack-shit.  The cars speed past the grandstands at such velocity that you can’t even discern which car is which.  Did Vettel crash somewhere round the back or is he in the pits? Is that guy in the lead or is he being lapped? You don’t know and you’re pretending that you don’t care.
Curiously enough, most other forms of racing aren’t this unenjoyable.  I must confess that I don’t really see the point in the 100m sprint during the Olympics or athletics meets, but at least it is over quickly.  There is little nuance to it, just 8 guys going for it full throttle.  But whatever.  I’m happy to watch Mo Farah run around in a circle 25 times because, hey, human beings get tired.  They sprint, slow down, catch people up all the time.  Things happen.  Cars go as fast as possible all the time, until they finish the race or end up in a ditch.

2.       The BBC have completely sold out for F1.  I like the BBC.  I feel incredibly proud that I contribute directly to the largest independent broadcaster in the world, and I feel sad when I hear that they are cutting back something or other in light of lost funding or similar.  It makes me even more sad that, in light of this, someone in charge agrees to spend a metric assload of cash securing the rights to a single sport.  The main channels rightfully try to show a diverse selection of programming, so we can’t expect to see live sport all day and all night, and yet try to name another sport which gets 6 hours of weekend airtime on BBC1 for 3 quarters of the year?  Every now and then Wimbledon takes over the station, and the 6 nations makes a cameo this time every year, but aside from special events like the World Cup or Olympics, there is almost nothing that can compete.  Even football is (joke alert!) relegated to late night Match of Day showings, unless the FA cup has thrown up an interesting match-up.

The BBC have decided to throw all their eggs in this one, rotten basket, and are now making a huge deal out of the perceived success.  They’ve even fired the children’s presenter who anchored the shows last year so that Suzy Perry can chase Eddie Jordan and “the JAW” around the pitlane.  Poor Suzy Perry.  She is, I understand, a genuine enthusiast for this sport, but she has been hired specifically because she has better legs than Jake Humphries and your dad fancies her.

3.       There isn’t a single likeable personality involved in the sport.  I’ve always thought it was a pretty big conflict of interest that the OWNER of the sport (not sure how you can “own” a sport, but go on) is also the guy that makes all the rules.  Are we supposed to believe that we’re watching the greatest sportsmen of our generation when the rules are constantly being tweaked to engineer results that generate ratings?  It’s a bit difficult to swallow.  We cheer (or you do) while some old guy, already wealthy beyond your ability to comprehend it, gets even richer from advertising cigarettes.  Plus the drivers are either outwardly unpleasant, smug, sycophantic weirdos, or expressionless mannequins who seem unable to conjure up any sense of enjoyment for what they are doing.  None of whom have the balls to declare their income locally, all coincidentally drawn to Monaco for reasons left unsaid  This is why people cheer for fucking car companies.  

 

4. It doesn’t feel like a celebration of human achievement.  Hear me out, I realise that all Formula 1 drivers (probably all professional drivers) are insanely fit.  You have to have a neck like a bull to withstand the G forces that they put themselves through for hours of training and racing.  And I also get that they are driving ridiculously fast cars around winding circuits with no margin for error.  They are the men with quickest reactions and the best all-round driving skills in the world, that is not up for debate.  But there is something unsettling about it, somehow impure, because these great athletes are effectively being carried around by incredible machines.  

I just can’t get excited about it because it feels like I’m watching the world’s greatest machine operators, and more specifically the world’s greatest machines.  And I also realise that they were designed and built by other great humans, but it just isn’t the same.  The drivers are not being judged on a level playing field – everyone knows that the race will be won by someone from a small subset of car manufacturers because the others can’t compete. The Force India cars are effectively obstacles for Ferrari’s drivers to overcome.  There’s something unsatisfyingly sterile about that which leaves me feeling unhappy, because it’s a shit conclusion and it isn’t even funny. And this is why people worship car companies, not drivers.  It’s also why i’d rather watch great human beings run around the track, because I am one of them, and I appreciate their abilities far better than those of the chief engineers.

 

DBTG who… doesn’t like Ikea

It seems that there are more than a few people in the world who don’t get Ikea.  Like, they think their life would be better off without it.  They point out that shopping at Ikea isn’t fun, and while they’re right, they have successfully missed the point entirely.  It isn’t supposed to be fun. You’re at a furniture shop after all, not Thorpe Park.

Ikea serves a purpose, and it does so very well.  Every now and then, I will be in my house, staring at a pile of loose clothing, and I will think “that would look much less awful if it was encased in wood-effect laminated chipboard”.  Actually, it is generally my wife who thinks that, while I then agree to do something about it because, joke alert, I love my wife and respect her opinion!  Any true “comedian” would use this opportunity to tell everyone how much they hate their wife’s nagging voice, to which I inevitably respond “why did you marry her then?”  If you don’t value your wife’s view on these things, maybe you shouldn’t be sharing your life with her, just a thought?

Anyway, I would happily live in a cave, with two piles of clothes labelled “Dirty” and “Wearable”, but I know that my wife would hate living in a draughty cave, so we go to Ikea instead (not to live, though i realise there is a bit missing to the narrative.).  Ikea seems almost unique because their prices don’t physically gouge out your eyes when you look at them, and yet the products look better than if I made them myself.  Seriously, if you told me that power tools were originally invented with the purpose of maiming the first person who tried to use them, I would tell you I can relate to that story.  You do not want furniture that I have made myself.

And yet, there isn’t really anyone else that springs to mind with the same design/value company policy.  Even the consumer-finance driven tatty sofa shops that advertise on TV (“Pay nothing for 3 YEARS!”) that I have occasionally wandered into are made to appear unreasonably dear by Ikea’s wares.  So why the hate?

First off, people get annoyed about the shop layout.  “Ikea make me walk around their whole shop just to see some pans,” they bleat, not realising that Ikea isn’t fucking making them do anything.  What they mean is that “my wife is making me walk around Ikea, and I’m too old to be left in the ball-pit.”  Think about it, if 2 men went to Ikea (for the sake of continuity, they are still buying pans), they would proceed straight to the pan section, buy pans, then leave.  Women actually enjoy the chance to consider bed spreads and curtains, even though they don’t need either. 

I once read that shopping conjures up different genetic behaviours in men and women.  Men are predisposed to seek out their prey, hunt it down, kill it and go home, whereas women are drawn to picking fruit from trees, and so are more likely to consider their job unfinished unless every apple has been picked.  Also, because antelopes are much more scarce then apples, men will take the first one they find, whereas women are more likely to browse for the nicest looking apple.  This translates pretty accurately, I think, to modern day shopping, and I am shamelessly stealing the theory and seeking to make it my own.  Anyway, Ikea are clearly readers of the same webzines as me, because they know about this theory as well.  They also know that when a couple is shopping together, the woman will drag the man around her circuitous route, and that the man is far more likely to agree to purchasing something when he is tired and bored, as he thinks that maybe it will ease his transition into the next life, and because he left his will to argue somewhere around the picture frames. 

Another issue people have is the Ikea restaurant.  My Dad in particular hates the concept: “Why would you eat at a shop?” he enquires, forgetting that people eat at schools and a lot of workplaces in very much the same environment.  The point is that there are only 18 Ikea stores in the UK, including 4 in London, which is the only city to have more than 1 store.  The likelihood is that you’ve travelled some distance to get there, and you have a similar journey back (this time with a clothes rail preventing you from changing gear properly because you couldn’t fit it in the boot).  Ikea know this and know that the average first world person can’t go more than about 4 hours without getting hungry.  If they didn’t have a restaurant, people would be eating somewhere else nearby, and ultimately spending less time being in Ikea.  It isn’t a restaurant really, you’re right, but it doesn’t want to be (despite the misleading name “Ikea restaurant”).  It doesn’t suit you or Ikea to have a waiter bringing you 3 courses over a period measured in hours, because that isn’t why you’re there. 

And yes, they serve (probable) horse meatballs.  Them and everyone else.  I can’t say I’m thrilled by the scandal, but I am pretty confident that everyone selling “meat” at these prices has some news up their sleeve, and I’m pretty much past worrying.  Same with the “bacteria in the cake” story.  Again, not very pleasant reading, but I recently learnt that the UK bread makers testing board (or whatever their name is) has an accepted tolerance for grams of mice faeces per ton of grain, so don’t kid yourself that you’re any better than me.  I mean, you probably are, but you still eat shit.