Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The 211 team World Cup

The latest FIFA idea of incoming president Gianni Infantino is to expand the World Cup to 48 teams. An already bloated tournament would then become even more stultifyingly dull.

So to hell with qualifying. And with it, forget four year cycles - this can be done annually in about six weeks.

There are currently 211 members of FIFA with men's teams. (Ladies, you can have your own personalised insane tournament later.)

This proposal harks back to the original cup - the now maligned FA Cup.

First, we need a couple of pre-qualifying rounds. The bottom 70 teams by FIFA ranking are drawn at random to play, winners progressing to the second pre-qualifying round.

The 35 match winners are joined by the next 61 ranking places, making 96 teams. Another draw, with the 48 match winners progressing to the first round proper.

The top 80 ranked teams join the party, from here a seven round straight knock-out competition (128-64-32-16-8-4-2)

What's not to like? Don't worry about the fans - FIFA don't really care for them anyway, except for the cash. Corporate sponsors can fill the stadia with competition winners.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


Dublin - and further afield through the wonder of the internet - is soon to lose one of her radio stations. TXFM, we hardly knew ye.

It's barely time since it regenerated from Phantom 105.2 - a slightly longer process than the Doctor, but the interim weeks effectively being a Spotify play list called "Now That's What I Call Indie Rock" wasn't too painful.

For me, it has soundtracked breakfasts, the occasional time working from home, innumerable car journeys around Dublin's suspension-jarring streets and just being there in the background.

Aside from the initial shakes of the trying-too-hard breakfast show with Joe and Keith - I compared it unfavorably with Mark and Lard's ill-suited stint on BBC Radio 1 in the 90s (which I loved!) - I've rarely been disappointed with the presenters or the music played. NB: Joe is great in the afternoon, opening my ears to hip hop that passed me by.

I've been fortunate enough to have my dulcet (flat) Yorkshire tones on the air a few times - Cathal Funge's Song Club has a hat-trick of my choices.

With this in mind, and thinking back to when BBC 6 Music launched with a public vote for their opening track, I have wondered whether there will be any notable song - or programme of songs - played before closedown.

For obviousness of title, either The Beatles or The Doors "The End" would suffice.

James' "We're Going To Miss You When You're Gone" - I will certainly miss having it around on FM, especially in the car.

REM "It's The End Of The World As We Know It" - over-dramatic, other independent-flavoured radio stations are available, just need seeking out over the web.

And then I remembered Belle and Sebastian "This Is Just A Modern Rock Song" - none more indie, and the song winds down to a mournful:

I count "three, four" and then we start to slow,
Because a song has got to stop somewhere.

RIP TXFM. Even if you did play too much Kings of Leon.

Friday, July 8, 2016

338 hours later

I remember the feeling when I discovered that Britain had voted to leave the European Union.

I had woken early, and reached for my phone - to see what time it was, not through force of terrible habit, honest.

"I'll just look" I thought to myself.

The Guardian's home page loaded, there was a smirking Nigel Farage, and my stomach immediately churned.

And then there was a metaphorical 'click'.

Amidst all the bombs exploding as politicians resigned, went into hiding, disavowed promises that were merely possibilities, faced the media with faces far from those of triumph, stock markets crashing, the pound sinking, arguments over who should have had a plan for this, social media filling with cries of 'what have we done?', hundreds of searches enquiring what exactly was the institution that the people had just decided to leave, newly empowered xenophobes and racists somehow believing that their vote was in fact for 'send the buggers back'.... bomb remained unexploded. The one closest to me and my family. The one primed under me and my family.

It's still there, ticking. And nobody can tell me if or when it's going to explode, and what will happen when it does.

And now I'm relying on Oliver Letwin to lead the negotiations? Good grief.

Monday, May 23, 2016

On the referendum

If you are thinking of voting to leave the EU, I would be interested to know your reasons why.

The Leave campaign has characterised the Remain campaign as being 'Project Fear' - although Leave were the ones to release early on a list of fifty serious crimes that happened to be committed by foreigners. This was to presumably illustrate the perceived loss of border control. And to hit the ground running with dog whistling. Although is it really a dog whistle when everyone can hear it? A dog megaphone?

So there are apparently hundreds, nay thousands, nay even millions of foreigners in Britain - Leave would have you think they all walked in, unquestioned. But consider the last time you came back to the UK after a holiday abroad. Just before you trudged to the luggage carousel, you would have shown your passport to either the local police or other officer. That is definitely a Britain in control of her borders.

And on holidays, where would you like to go in the golden days of a Britain that has left the EU? Europe itself? Yes, there'll still be flights, but how much is it going to cost? You do not need a visa today to travel - a Britain outside the EU could be punitively charged, be it individually or on top of air travel fees. Don't think it could happen? Speak to anyone who ventured abroad before the 1960s.

Say you have now managed to get yourself to France, Spain or elsewhere. Why not call home and let them know you've arrived - or better still post a picture on Facebook? Just whip out your mobile... and pay excessively once more. The EU has capped roaming charges. 'But my network provider doesn't charge me for roaming!' you protest. Free of those rules, have you ever known capitalism do something for your benefit?

I have forgotten that it is quite silly of me to assume you actually have any time off for a holiday. The EU has driven a whole raft of rights for workers. These will not magically be retained in the event of Leave. Unbound by the EU, the Gove-rnment (because that's who it will be, or heaven forbid Bullshitting Boris Johnson) will be able to repeal various acts of Parliament not so much burning red tape as burning your right to go to work without being exploited. You may argue that the EU should have no say over how many hours a week you can work, but I don't want to be on your coach as you career off the M62 flyover at Goole during your third day without sleep.

Sorry, what was that you were saying about sovereignty? The EU may make recommendations, but individual countries have to enact legislation for these. Remember the rounds of referenda that held up various treaties? Ireland in particular had a penchant for voting No a few times - and coincidentally abortion still remains illegal here, despite pressure from other countries and what the anti-abortionists would spread during each such referendum. Does a campaign of misleading fearful propoganda sound familiar? (I know Remain are hardly covering themselves in glory here either, but this nonsense sells papers.)

The most pernicious argument propounded by Leave is that the EU is undemocratic. That would be the EU Parliament, voted on by about one-fifth of the population every five years. It used to be true that it was unelected - but this has not been the case since 1979. And who has benefited from the public reluctance to embrace European democracy? UKIP, whose primary argument is that Brussels is undemocratic. Brussels has actually helped fund their cynicism - thanks to creative use of expenses by the part-time UKIP MEPs.

Yes, the EU has its flaws, but surely it is better to be in and have a chance to steer the ship to calmer waters than be outside on a liferaft without a say. Or something about tents and pissing. Interestingly, Leave cannot get their post-EU Utopia agreed - some wish to be like Norway: access to the market, still has to pay contributions, has no say on setting the rules. Others wish to be like Switzerland: secret, offshore havens, don't like tax... hang on. Or Canada: currently on fire, and climate change probably means the Scottish Highlands will soon be a year-round tinderbox.

Finally, if you still cannot make up your mind, think about Rupert. Rupert is a four-times married Australian, scion of a publisher father, cruelly forced to adopt US citizenship so he could spend more time with his money. Rupert is so generous, Dennis Potter named his cancer tumour after him. This quote is from Anthony Hilton:

I once asked Rupert Murdoch why he was so opposed to the European Union. 'That’s easy,' he replied. 'When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.'

Now think about what has done more damage to the UK since the late 1960s: the EU or News International. Who's telling you that the UK is full? (It isn't - fly on a plane from Dublin to London, it's nothing but green fields.) Who's telling you that migrants are only here on the take? Who's telling you that South Yorkshire Police are a fine, upstanding police force who wouldn't collude to smear innocent victims of their incompetence?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Dig Your Own Hole

I have started to make use of Spotify's offline feature, to give me something to listen to on the ride to and from work.

This week I downloaded The Chemical Brothers' "Dig Your Own Hole" - a favourite of mine at university. Listening to it today generated these random thoughts:

The album is almost 20 years old. How? *whimpers at aging*

The trouble with music today is that you can hear the words. Even the two tracks with actual singers ("Setting Sun", "Where Do I Begin") dispense with the vocals being entirely audible. Noel Gallagher sounds like he's trapped in a well with an erratic motorbike engine.

Noel would do well to make something else as one-tenth as adventurous as "Setting Sun". The next thing he did with Oasis was acknowledged cocaine blizzard "Be Here Now". Did this one track annihilate whatever creativity Oasis had? (And in any case, "Whatever" was written by Neil Innes, supreme Beatles pasticher.)

"Setting Sun" is ideal for cycling fast.

Beth Orton. Wonderful voice. *sigh*

It's an absolute racket in places, but what a glorious racket. Although the whistle on the title track can get lost.

"The Private Psychedelic Reel" is one of the best album closers.