Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hod fuzz...

Concentration on the new Wembley was diverted a little by this rather alarming photo, contained in Saturday's Under-21s official programme:
And there was me thinking the young Glenn could barely muster a wispy excuse for a moustache to make Gary Neville's look Merv Hughes-esque.
Presumably this picture was taken before some kindly soul told Hoddle that Chas and Dave were fine for FA Cup Final songs,
but not - repeat NOT - for personal grooming advice.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

"Everybody will be singing..."

Okay, I know I promised no more football posts for a little old while.
But, well, it's not every day you get to go to the long-awaited, oh-too-too-long-awaited opening of the shiny new improved Wembley.
Granted, it was only the Under-21s, and strangely enough,
about as dull as a 3-3 game could ever be.
Let's just hope that junior England defence
is not the senior England defence of the future.
Even the usually-ever-reliable Leighton Baines looked dodgy, albeit against an Italian strike duo - the historic hat-trick man Pazzini and surely-not-under-21-let's-see-that-passport-again-please-Mister Rosina - who might soon be moving up a level, if the reigning world champions' status in fourth place behind Ukraine, France and Scotland continues much longer...
But, anyway, Wemberlee - well, hello hello, it was good to be back - wandering, struggling, down the still-a-little-shabby Wembley Way among the hordes, remembering vividly past visits to see Spurs lose a cup in 1987, win a cup in 1991, win another cup in 1991
- and, well, plenty more Wembley visits for one reason or another.
Thinking about it, I'd notched up rather a lot of Wembley wends: starting in 1986 with a Rous Cup victory for England over Scotland, 2-1, thanks partly to a rare Glenn Hoddle diving header, and culminating in the 1999 FA Cup Final in which super-sub Teddy Sheringham helped Manchester United clinch the second third of that Treble.
Oh, and we thought that was as dramatic as it might get...
In between came the day I, my mother and one brother arrived amid a forest of, er, Forest fans, them wearing grim Pearce and Clough masks, us in Morris boaters with Spurs players cut out and stuck on - and being told merely: "Oh dear, oh dear, what have we here..."
Only to be comforted, as Pearce's free-kick hurtled in, Gazza hurtled off, "goal"scoring Lineker got called offside, then frittered away a penalty.
"See, I told you you'd score," that friendly Forest fan reassured. "Oh..."
I'd like to say I was as magnanimous when we eventually came back to clinch a (deserved) win.
Ah, but I was so much younger then...
Otherwise, there have been the 1999 Worthington Cup win ("The man in the raincoat's blue and white army"), Wolves winning the Sherpa Van Trophy (mum and grandma), Bristol Rovers losing the Leyland Daf Trophy (dad), Ascoli beating Notts County to the Anglo-Italian Cup (dunno), being left speechless by Rene Higuita's "scorpion" save, being left similarly so by Koeman's winning drive for Barca's first European Cup (the second seemed quite sweet too), the rush from Seaman's save to Gazza's dentist chair against Scotland in Euro 96 - oh, and the only Wembley game I missed that summer, the 4-1 v Holland I had to crane to capture from a Villa Park pressbox as Scotland, somewhat less thrillingly,
scraped a 1-0 win against Switzerland...
Well, anyway. The here and now.
And what a stunning stadium it is, new as it is, same place as it stands.
The crowd was well below capacity, and there were lengthy stretches of silence - but when a roar went up, it certainly did stick around.
The design of the roof does seem to keep it all in, bouncing back into the ground rather than drifting away over the North Circular.
That atmosphere will feel and sound immense, just as soon as a full, proper crowd gets packed in, no doubt about it.
Just a shame Spurs won't be there for the first FA Cup Final.
Then again, with 107 steps to the Royal Box instead of the old 39 - I'm not sure our esteemed leader Ledley would have made it,
God rest his dear departed soul...
(As for the other England. Least said, the better...
Then again, for all the flak Mac will surely get:
How, incidentally, really, is Venables earning his money?
If he's such a tactical genius, how did we manage to spend almost the entire game in the opposition half - and yet the player who seemed to see most of the ball was Jamie Carragher?
At least we can't do anything but beat Andorra.
... can we?)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"Be thankful I don't take it all..."

22p down to 20p ... one per cent up per annum, to 22 per cent by 2010 ... £17.45 to £20 by 2010 ... 20 per cent, but really that's 10 per cent, to £6,600 ... £7,280 for under-75s becomes £9,770 in 2011 ... £300 for insulation, or £4,000, or somewhere in between anyway ... 2012 zero-carbon homes (whatever they are - tents?) stamp duty-free to £500k ... eight per cent, to 2.7 per cent, to 1.4 per cent, in five years ... £60billion, to £74billion, in four ... and overall, that's £674billion ... and, after all ...
... that's Numberwang!
Oh, those and many more dizzying statistic shall surely be streaming before my eyes, my dreams, this evening after that day again, mired under a mountain of figures and calculations and conclusions and recalculations and convulsions, all in aid of simplistic restylings.
A business studies GCSE only goes so far... well, not very far at all.
On a purely selfish scale, I can't help but be reasonably satisfied enough, on earlyish digesting - as a non-smoking, spirit-drinking, small-car-driving, mediocre professional whose salary sits conveniently (uncannily so) between the £17,000 and £43,000 gates outside which the other income tax reforms do actually kick in no-doubt-annoyingly.
(Then again, looks like I'm a couple of hundred down on non-refundable flights thanks to the rather exhibionist religiosity over in Seville. Huh. "There is no deadline", says Uefa - a lovely insight into how much the average fan means to those oblivious old soaks... But anyway.)
Away from the forensic economic analysis - of which there will no doubt be much but not here, oh no - I thought Gordon Brown comfortably trounced David Cameron on the jokes front, especially of a Stalinist theme. Cameron, usually so suave, seemed more blustery than brilliant today, his Kylie line especially toppling into the gutter, forlornly, unfunnily...
Then again, he did seem a little stunned by that superb, "oh-and-one-more-thing" touch of showmanship by Brown, as he dug that income-tax cut from the depths of a back pocket.
Yes, the emerging ramifications may bring some bitter stings, and abolishing the 10p tax rate emphasises the "Gord giveth, Gord taketh away" element of the whole affair.
But, er, isn't that what they all, always, do?
("Tax - it has to be paid", as an ardent Stevie P told The Glory Game in 1972. "Aren't all the players Labour?" Er...)
Heavens a'mighty, that a Chancellor of the Exchequer should have the audacity to levy taxes?
Honestly, some people - they win the popular vote at the most recent election, and they think that gives them the right to govern...
(Interesting-ish fact: When George Harrison toured Japan in 1991, his live version of "Taxman" had backing singers replacing "Ah, ah, Mr Wilson" with "Ah, ah, Mr Major", "Ah, ah, Mr Heath" with "Ah, ah, Neil Kinnock".
The first fitted slightly better than the second.
Okay, not even interesting-ish, but anyway...)
Anyway, that final flourish was rather cherishable in the delivery.
Almost as much James Brown as Gordon.
All that was missing was Mr Blair handing Brown his cape at the climax...

Saturday, March 17, 2007

"Aw, come on now - you know about my debutante..."

There are two key surprises in the new Edie Sedgwick biopic, Factory Girl.
The second comes right at the end, as the credits start to roll indeed - among all the clearly-real-life characters involved, the blatantly Bob Dylan part played so lamely by Hayden Christiansen is actually listed, disingenuously, as "Folk Singer".
Why so coy?
It's not as if the affair between Dylan and Edie isn't well-documented.
Nor is he portrayed so much as the villain of the piece, of Edie's downfall, compared to Guy Pearce's lip-twitching, eerie Andy Warhol.
I can only guess that Dylan threatened to sue once he'd got wind of just how horribly vacuous Christiansen could be, the "actor" appearing to believe that a shrugged-on leather jacket, a mussed-up mop and the odd dreary drawl add up to enough of an enigma.
The first surprise, on the other hand, is that Sienna can actually act.
Very well indeed, in fact.
Okay, so the role seems oh-so-nattily tailor-made for her - a flimsy, shimmying social gadabout-town, expertly wearing all the chic-est outfits and even more expertly falling out of them at any excuse.
But you do start to care as the starts to fall apart, cast adrift between two (supposedly) powerful presences and the ever-whirling tastes of the times.
Except... the film as a whole doesn't help her.
It's too fractured, too shallow - cutting up abruptly, more Thomas Crown Affair at times than really-radical pop-artistry, and there's just not enough reason to understand why Edie Sedgwick slipped away.
Nor why to truly, madly, deeply care.
Nor is the effect assisted by the too-predictable framework, intercutting flashback scenes with emotion-recollected-in-tranquillity commentaries - the kind of start-at-the-end structure that seems motivated less by artistic merit, the attempt to reflect historical hindsight and its unreliability, than to distance such films from being merely a straight-to-TV docudrama.
The worst of these was the lamentable Cole Porter biopic, De-Lovely, in which the old-Cole-commentates-on-the-younger conceit was nowhere near so clever as it thought, being merely distracting all the while...
So, well, while Factory Girl is a stirring little Sixties tale, hopefully speeding the return of such fashions to the frontline, there's just - like Edie by the end - a little too little flesh around the bones.
When all it really needed, all in all, was another, well, fifteen minutes...?