Welcome to Empirical Purple

A blog by Simon Brady to cover a surprisingly wide range of geekiness, in a combination that no-one else does quite the same way. Probably. Either that, or it'll just be Simon talking about the likes of Football (usually the Soccer variety), PC & Tabletop Gaming, WWE, Movies, Music and occasionally even my actual job of Graphic Design, depending on what I'm up to in the world.



Sunday, August 29, 2010

Best football news I've heard in months

Lampard and Terry are out of England's first Qualifying matches. They can play now for Chelsea, obviously, but are somehow too injured to play for England when the two week long international break comes around.

Good.

The lack of Lampard means that Gerrard will be able to play where he wants without restriction, while England won't have a Number 8 who only appears when we've got the ball in the opposition's box - i.e. never. It also rids us of perhaps the most arrogant defender we've had in decades, who somehow assumes he has a divine right to be Captain of the England national football team. Never mind that it is an honour to be picked, and that there are sixty million people who would be giving their right arm to be in his position, but unless he's Captain he doesn't seem to want to know.

The quicker the two of them are dropped from the Starting XI, the better.

Oh, and Rooney has finally scored, from the penalty spot, this weekend, for the first time since England were supposed to be good. Let's keep booing him and all the other twats, though, just to make sure.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mr Sith Sith Bang Bang

Yeah, yeah, I know I'm about two years too late to 'review' Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

As much as you do get to unleash the Force (hey, now the title makes sense!) in that game, throwing Wampas and other things around with insane abandon, the whole thing suffers from a lack of... interaction.

Run, attack, run, jump, multi-attack, rinse, repeat.

Other than the bosses, during which you occasionally have to chain a series of attacks to on-screen prompts during semi-cut scenes, the whole game is fairly pointless. Another case of Lucasarts bringing some great new technology to the scene, then consummately failing to make a worthwhile, playable game out of it.

Now, I love Lucasarts for what they've done over the years. In the 90s they produced games that weren't technically (or graphically) as good as what Sierra On-line managed, but were extremely playable: in the 90s they made X-Wing, Day of the Tentacle, Indiana Jones & the Fate of Atlantis, Sam & Max and Monkey Island - some utterly fabulous games.

Unfortunately, they decided that bigging-up the Star Wars franchise with a series of pointless, atrocious, badly-made and unplayable licensed games. Empire at War, Dark Forces, Battlefront and Galactic Battlegrounds. Some geeks will tell you that Jedi Knight and Knights of the Old Republic were stand-outs, but that was the time of Quake 2, Wing Commander: Prophecy, Carmageddon and Tomb Raider, which I all vastly preferred.

I had a blast playing Star Wars:Galaxies, of course, and the more-recent Lego Star Wars (along with the Batman and Indiana Jones versions) are brilliantly-made games.

The latest offering is an Open Beta for Clone Wars Adventures. Never one to resist an Open Beta, I figured I'd have a go at it. As usual, good old Sony Online Entertainment suffer an Epic Fail in compatibility for the Mac, I have to play it via Windows.

It's an MMO for kids, really - no other MMO I've tried asks you to get a parent to read the Terms of Service, just in case you're a child -  and running around the highly-stylised look of the 3D version of The Clone Wars (as opposed to 'Clone Wars', which was just Samurai Jack with a Lightsaber).

Other than the obvious social and pay-us-now-for-cool-stuff every 3 seconds, Clone Wars Adventures is just an MMO lobby with a series of mini-games attached, the sort of which you'll find on any flash game website. Racing, puzzles, fighting, launching, tower defence, etc, all with a licensed Star Wars twist.

I had more fun beating the snot out of Obi-Wan by pressing Up, Right, Right, Left a few times than I did in all of The Force Unleashed, though but still ranks nowhere near the endless fun I had playing X-Wing, using a mouse instead of a joystick, in the early nineties. Ah well, back to the emulators...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Summoning the team...

I painted up my Undead team with an Arsenal theme in mind - they're all standing still with one hand in the air, after all - and finally settled on 'Dead and Gooners' as the team name. So, finally, comes the logo and the player names themselves.

There's no back-story quite yet, but I like the thought of a Skeletal groundsman spending the eternity of his un-death pushing a mower up and down the pitch in order to make it a perfect Blood Bowl field, with the occasional zombie hand bursting forth through the ground to ruin his bowling-green grass. Oh, and of course all the games that get played on it, of course.

Anyway the team, with no points for the football-minded amongst you guessing the individual's inspiration, is:

1. David Yorksherman (Zombie)
2. Scamperly Dickson (Skeleton)
3. Cashley Coal (Ghoul)
4. Patrik Verde (Wight)
5. Colin Shambles (Mummy)
6. Antonio Abbadons (Mummy)
7. Superbo Pirouettes (Ghoul)
8. Ian Wightwightwight (Wight)
9. Nicholas Le Sulka (Ghoul)
10. Liam Dready (Skeleton)
12. Niggling Splinterburn (Zombie)
14. Thierribly Hungry (Ghoul)

All those players add up to 860,000 gold pieces, which then gives me three Re-Rolls and 30k to throw around the place, which I'm spending on Fan Factor.

My schedule is as follows:
Ben and his Vampires
Dan and his Skaven - the Dread Bakers Dozen
Stu and his Wood Elves
Phil and his Lizardmen - Leela's Lizards
Roy and his Orcs - the Bitez Yer Legz Huntaz

A jack-of-all-trades team first, followed by two fast, scoring types (who break easily, of course) and then two slower, hitty types - though the skinks on the Lizardman team are particularly squishy if I can lay some unearthed hands on them. It'll be a great set of games to play against some awesome opponents, and if I can scrape three wins and a draw I'll be a happy bunny indeed, as that will probably be enough put me into the play-offs.

Hopefully I won't be having to yell 'ARSE!' too many times when rolling dice, but you never know.

Monday, August 23, 2010

T-Pain's got the X-Factor

Watching the new series of the X-Factor on Sunday's re-run, it sounded to me like contestant Gamu Nhengu (right) either had a very strange voice, or had been autotuned in post. Now the show's producers have, after the obligatory storm in the online tea cup, admitted to editing what we see and hear to provide the 'most entertaining experience possible'.

Well, duh.

Playing around with continuity has never been a problem for them in the past: inserting a shot of the contestant looking extremely nervous when, from the wider 'live' angles, they are standing in a different pose, or playing around with what expressions the judges are making and exactly when they're doing them.

The auditions are my favourite part of the show, as you see the meek, the frail and the deluded attempting to validate their pointless existence and be accepted by humanity as the superstars they really think they are.

"I really want this. It's been my dream forever. I want to be a star. I've worked so hard. I've given it my heart and soul. I want this so much. I couldn't have done any more." Yeah? Well, you're still a charisma-vacuum with the voice of a gargling donkey, my friend, so go home and stay there.

Autotuning a few bum notes is disappointing (mostly because it was done so badly we actually noticed it), but it doesn't really matter to me in these pre-recorded clips, as I'm not watching the auditions for the fabulous voices and entertainers. Give me less sob stories and more singers, of every level of quality.

Failing that, Lions Vs Christians would work as a taster for the main event of Gladiators.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I'm not a proud man, but...

...ah, shameless self-promotion, we meet again.

This post is entirely dedicated to promoting the existence of the Portal Wargaming Club Blood Bowl League Group on Facebook.

We have 12 teams signed up, we have three Divisions (Griffin, Simpson and Fry) awaiting the teams to be drawn into them on August the 25th, and then we have a boatload of matches that can be played from the 1st of September onwards.

Check us out, keep up to date, join in the fun if you like and add me on Facebook if you haven't already.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Spoiler-tastic further thoughts on Inception

Don't look at the spinning totem thing, really.
It's just a distraction - so they tell me. Certainly distracted me.
Reall,y don't read this if you haven't seen it yet. Anything and everything in this post may well spoil the entire first viewing of the movie for you, as I'm asking questions about things in a film that you haven't even realised are questions yet.

So, anyway, why were his kids the exact same age when he found them as throughout the movie? Most likely because he's still dreaming. Why does everything he's trying to tell you about Inception mirror his own journey - redemption, catharsis, relationship with his father, etc. The question of when he actually falls asleep to enter this dream is another matter entirely.

I've heard that the spinning totem, that his wife originally used, is a distraction, and the presence of his wedding ring (that I didn't notice either way) is the real key. We know, of course, that the spinning totem appeared in his dreams, which makes it a pretty useless totem to see if he's grounded in reality or not. He set it spinning in the safe in the doll's house when they were in limbo, so why on earth would he use it himself to prove the nature of reality, when his dreams would surely compensate for that - the fact it originally belonged to his wife doubly so.

Just who's subconscious are we in, anyway? Christopher Nolan's, most likely. "It was all a dream," is an often annoying conclusion to a film, but with the themes Inception explores, that's not a bad thing.

This isn't like Memento, in that you can obviously 'get' the premise behind it, watch it again and see everything coming, enjoying it back/forwards. Everything that Nolan has shown us may be representing reality, or one of the induced dream states and, short of throttling the man until he gives us the truth, we can but pick apart every scene, event and marker to decide what it was telling us, debate how, who, what, when, why and where.

All of which means that Inception qualifies as a piece of art: provoking emotion, interpretation and discussion. Like Battlefield Earth, only the opposite in every way; I don't think I saw a curtain wipe once!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

September the 1st... Erm.. BB-Day

The Portal Wargaming Club Blood Bowl League now has the maximum 12 sign-ups for the first season with Phil, Harry and Damo taking the last three spaces.

The tough decision I have to make once I've drawn the three groups of four is how to seed each Coach. Who am I, for instance, to tell one Coach he's better or worse than another player? So, for Season One, the seeding system will be a combination of:

  • How well I've seen the Coach play (either against me, or watching their games)
  • What team they're using (be as good as you like, but if you're using Halflings you've got less of a chance of winning)
  • How much game experience they've had - Length of time they've been actively playing the game, competing in tournaments, the previous Open League, amount of time playing the Cyanide or FUMBBL games, etc.

Next week at Portal will be the random Group Draw, and announcement of the Schedule, with the first matches of the Portal League being able to be played the very next week!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Becks, Thugs, Blackpool Rock and Cole

Ahhh, Premiership, there you are! We've missed ya.

We've missed Championship-quality thugs deciding that the only way to get a hold of Birmingham City's midfield is to elbow, scissors-tackle and generally foul your way around the park for as long as you manage to stay on the pitch (42 minutes, in Lee Cattermole's case).

We've missed teams who are brand new to the Premier League having incredible first seasons, because none of the other 19 teams in the League have a clue who they're playing against other than a team of journeymen and old guys who used to play for Charlton and Blackburn. Despite probably challenging, somehow, for European places in their debut season, Blackpool will be in the relegation scrap next year once everyone figures out they're actually rubbish and end up just playing through them.

We've missed the real complaints about referees, where (looks like I'm picking on Sunderland today, but they deserve it) Steve Bruce can point out that the clash between our eventual 14th and 15th-placed teams was 'too big' for referee Anthony Taylor, despite each team preferring to kick the shins of the opposition, rather than the ball.

We've missed the debatable sendings off and the pointless, inaccurate cliches of "once you leave the ground, you're always going to get a card" (at least we've not had the one that starts with "you raise your hands...").

We've missed the fact that the English World Cup players actually have some skill, and can appear to demonstrate it when they can finally be bothered, i.e. when they're actually getting paid for it, rather than something pointless like, oh I don't know, representing their country on the world stage.

And yet, after the Liverpool-Arsenal match on Sunday, 606 was only dominated by people talking about Fabio Capello, England, and David Beckham. Capello is damned for not chucking out enough old players to make way for new blood, then damned for chucking out the oldest one who's currently very, very injured. Thanks, media, for building him up as the greatest England manager ever, then knocking him down as hard as you can, for the slightest of problems, the minute his team fails. It's not Lampard's fault he was completely anonymous (as always) except when singing the national anthem, or Rooney's fault that he was ineffective, nor that Barry couldn't have caught a cold, or Defoe's entire contribution to a tournament was scoring a goal, or that Green made one. single. mistake. Nono, it's Fabio's fault. Obviously.

We've not missed Andy Gray, though.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

You musn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling

Opening with one of the better lines from the film was an easy choice. After seeing the initial trailers, the clip that includes this line made me think "I'm definitely going to see this one!". I didn't even need the prompting of Mark Kermode to make that decision, though his subsequent review just reinforced the desire. So, finally, I have.

Quite simply, I loved it. Much has been made of how Christopher Nolan decides to do an anti-Michael Bay and actually engage the intelligence of his audience, and I was expecting to come away puzzled, baffled, and wanting to see it again to make sure everything made sense: I didn't get that feeling at all. A second viewing would have it all making more sense, I'm sure, as the action-thriller side of things would take a back seat to the more intricate details becoming clearer. But, generally, there wasn't anything that wasn't explained either before or after in the dialogue or the various lessons about the dreams themselves and the self-imposed rules the characters follow (or otherwise).

Either I'm a lot cleverer than I give myself credit for, as I 'got' everything, or I'm much dumber than I think, and everything made sense only in vague layman's terms while I missed the grand picture. It was, at times, an exceedingly complex set of events, threads and ideas, but the film takes you by the hand, leads you through it, then jumps into another level of depth (or two) and dares you to follow. I dared, I followed, I enjoyed.

It's well written and well-directed, with great acting from a great cast (DiCaprio is very good and Ken Watanabe always gets two Japanese thumbs up, while 'Tommy' from 3rd Rock has all growed up into a fine actor) and great special effects that sit very nicely with the rest of the film, rather than their effect being jarring on the eyes. A few too many uber-loud bass notes of d00m for me in the score department, but when an eternity in the limbo of your own mind awaits, that's certainly cause for dramatic mood music.

The Matrix, eXistenZ, Mulholland Drive and Open Your Eyes/Vanilla Sky have all been mentioned as precursors and influences into this type of film-making, where dreams and reality are explored, and Inception definitely stands proud among that list of great movies.

I'm definitely going to watch this again, either on DVD or one of the various movie channels, and hopefully won't need too much prompting as to who's subconscious we're in at any particular point.

Note to Hollywood: being confused for a moment, a minute, or even an hour in a film is no bad thing.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Portal Service Announcement, brought to you by Ulthuan Express

One evening and nine sign-ups already, with just another three required to make the maximum twelve.

My Undead, Roy's Orcs, Dan's Skaven, Stuart's Wood Elves, Andy's Dwarves, Tom's Necromantic, Tims' Norse (or Lizardmen), Adi's Orcs (or Humans) and Ben's Vampires are all officially signed up to play in Season One!

In two more weeks' worth of sign-ups, all we need are either one or three more teams so we can get going on the 1st of September. On the cards, of course, are Paul's Goblins and one of Phil's myriad of teams. Harry's Wood Elves? Rob's Humans (or Ogres)? The final few teams have yet to sign up!

With 10 teams, we'll run two divisions of five teams each. With 12 teams, we'll run three divisions of four teams each. There will be fabulous inter-divisional play, too, seeing every team play five games each. Top two teams in each Division (and a couple of third-place teams with the best records, if we have 3 divisions) will go to the simple, knockout-type Play-Offs.

You can find the League extra-rules thingy we'll be using as a simple jpg file by clicking here. Download the official Competition Rules Pack (that we'll be using for the PWCBBL) from the Games Workshop site itself by clicking here, too.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Whoooooooosh!

It's one o'clock on a Wednesday and, as it is every month, it's deadline day.

The to-do lists have been done, the proofing has been proofread, and now the final sign-offs and occasional advert amendment are sitting there waiting for me. Barring a few random last-minute things, which always occur, August hasn't been too bad: some new ads, some new ideas, some delightful pictures and, hopefully, another great local magazine for people to read next week.

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
- Douglas Adams


Portal tonight, PWCBBL Signups, a game or two of Blood Bowl... good times to look forward to after this stressful, hectic day.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Schemes, teams, themes, rhymes and dreams

This week, I are been mostly experimenting with some paint schemes on some cheap Swordmasters I picked up on ebay.

High Elves being in the new Island of Blood boxed set later on this year is a lovely bonus for any potential High Elf collector, and with lots of plastic models that Skaven, and other, players will want to get rid of to ease the cost of an entire starter set, there will be plenty of Swordmasters and Lothern Sea Guard knocking about the place.

Which is fine by me, as you know, because Swordmasters are the bestest. They're what really drew me to High Elves even as far back as 4th Edition.

4th Edition High Elves had a lovely white theme to them, with red as their accent, or rather trim, colour. More recent editions have them in a predominately white and blue number. I don't particularly want to copy either for the Elves I'm looking to paint, though.

I have High Elves in mind for my next Blood Bowl team. Not in time for the Portal Wargaming Club Blood Bowl League, for which Sign-ups start officially in two days time, where I'll be playing the Dead and Gooners Arsenal-themed team, but we'll see about Season Two. I've proxied Roy's 'Pro' Elves models as High Elves for a couple of games, and I'm loving them so far as a fairly speedy, well-armoured, Agility 4 team with Strength 3 catchers.

As with my Paravon Eagles Human/Bretonnian team, I'm going to go for an NFL theme. For this case, with my Saphery leanings, who better to come up with than the Saphery Seahawks? Then comes the colour scheme. The Seattle Seahawks play in a fairly dull dark blue/grey colour, which is not my style at all. My GW obsession comes from the early 90s, where everything was BRIGHTER AND MORE VIVID, not the mush of high-quality brown and grey that the last set of Golden Demon winners appear to be. So, instead of that, I'm going for a turquoise-teal colour, nice and bright, somewhere right down the middle between blue and green, where the arguments start.

So, with my newly-acquired Swordmasters in tow, I embarked upon some colour scheme experiments. With the Swordmasters themselves being individual agents of the Loremasters of Hoeth, I never really figured them to fight as a unit in identical uniforms. They'd be more like Samurai, each with their own fighting style as individual as a signature, with their own sword, armour, and personally-coloured robes. They won't be a riot of colour, some sort of Rainbow Guard, but they will have, as a unit, a far more expansive palette than the rest of the army. My test model, who's very image illustrates this post,is roughly what I want the army to look like. White, turquoise, silver and gold are what I'm aiming for, with accent gems and sashes of red and yellow.

It should translate quite nicely to the High Elf Team, eventually, to end up with a Saphery-themed High Elf army, brought to the old world via the decks of Lothern Sea Guard-manned Eagleships and Hawkships, bringing with them a Blood Bowl team for shits and giggles.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Goalposts unavailable; jumpers sold off

I'm lucky having cable TV and not Sky, because that means I don't have to put up with Andy Gray's commentary, so-called analysis, atrocious bias and all-round waste of TV airtime. Thankfully, he doesn't subscribe to my blog, either, so he doesn't have to put up with my infernal ramblings either. It's a win-win imaginary relationship.

But lo, once more, did the football season begin in a storm of "well, England were shit at the World Cup, which seems like it ended years ago, so here's some more football".

As Javier Hernandez continued his excellent form of the World Cup to trip over, have the ball hit him in the face and still score to make it 2-0, we heard England players being booed, Boro slipping up and Macclesfield drawing with newly-promoted Stevenage. Leicester lost, too. But then again, that's just Leicester.

In this least-auspicious of opening weekends - where we see all the new kits that immediately look horrible but by the end of the season we won't really notice quite how bad they are (Watford pretending to be Milan in their away kit, anyone? Man Utd going retro, again, and getting it horribly wrong, again) - there were actually some very bad moments. Cardiff could only manage to find four substitutes for their match against Sheffield United thanks to atrocious financial management that failed to get them up to the Premier League. Portsmouth, fielding pretty much their entire squad, only managed a similar number in their loss to the C.O.V. after atrocious financial management that failed to keep them in the Premier League.

Football Clubs are certainly businesses, and businesses fail with a fair degree of regularity. Football Clubs, with all the spiritual connections to the community, passion of the fans, academies, community charity schemes and VIP lounges, are still just businesses which need to be run correctly. The Fit and Proper Person Test that Chairmen have to undertake obviously doesn't include questions about mortgages, repayments or profit/loss margins. Never mind anything to do with actually knowing something about football.

On a more comedic note, this sketch from That Mitchell & Webb Look. They mention Macclesfield and everything, while summing up everything bad about the hype and over-embellishment that Andy Gray and his ilk put out every year:

Friday, August 06, 2010

For the Love of the Game

This blog entry was going to be something crap about building a High Elf army, or something similar. But, thankfully, a discussion thread over at Ulthuan.net came to the rescue for a more-interesting topic.

Essentially, it was started by someone complaining that High Elves rely on one item (The Book of Hoeth) to make their armies unstoppable, and that every list seems to include it, or Teclis, or a Prince on a Star Dragon, because it's so powerful. That's just for High Elves.

The Lizardmen can do the Death Star build, Daemons do the Kairos + Horrors list, Dark Elves get their dual Hydras in, Empire use Karl Franz on a Dragon with two Steam Tanks... it goes on. And that's just a smattering of Warhammer. 40k is slightly better for '├╝ber' lists, but they're still prevalent. Blood Bowl, for instance, has very few near-perfect team set-ups, but the Orc build including 4 Black Orcs (lots of high strength) and 4 Blitzers (lots of Block) is probably the closest you can get.

It got me a-thinking (yeah, I bet you can smell the burning rubber from there) about the different aspects of Wargaming and the reasons why we play.

We play to win, of course, because otherwise what's the point in playing a game? That's true enough for anything, whether it be on the Xbox, the tabletop, down the pub or whatever. The question really lies in 'How much do you want to win the game?'.

If the answer is 'At all costs', then you probably shouldn't come and play me, on the off-chance that I beat you and your mother isn't around when you start crying.

Or, you can bring your Kairos and his invincible daemonhost, or a motley collection of useless troop types and fluffy elite choices, or a 9-skink Lizardmen team or even your eight Leman Russes in 1500 points build and - as long as you're not a being a twat about it - you can grind me into the dust. Or I could end up roflstomping you right back (yes, yes, unlikely but possible).

Do either of those, or anything in between, in a manner that makes me smile, enjoy my hobby and lead to a hearty handshake at the end, and you've got a pick-up-game opponent for life.

My armies and teams are built like a cake (stay with me on this one): I've spent the time sifting the ingredients and baking it together to suit my taste. A fun game is the icing, and a win is just the cherry.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Fabulous Flying 'Flings


Monty's Pie-a-thon Flying Circus, the new name for the Jiggly Jaguars, played two and won two this evening - which is noteworthy in of itself.

Firstly they called out Roy's "Bite yer Legz Huntaz" Orc team and, despite going behind to a First Half Touchdown by the Goblin known as Secret Agent Man (a.k.a. 'that little bastard') they pulled out a Turn 8 equaliser with a thrown team-mate play.

They started the second half with another TTM, going ahead 2-1. Admist the scoring chaos, two Black Orcs bit the dust and Secret Agent Man finally was injured after being pushed into the crowd.

As the Orcs stormed back in numbers to attempt their trademark, fairly un-Orky passing game, a plucky Halfling stepped up to intercept a pass, before legging it off for another Turn 8 Touchdown, with a riot then ending the game for 3-1 in the little guys' favour!

They kept with greenskin opponents for their second game, a grudge match against Paul's "Red Eye Renegades" Goblin team. Blood and bodies were flying around on both sides of the pitch, with each team suffering at least five casualties each by the end. Twice the Halflings scored on TTM plays, while the Gobbos ran in a touchdown. On the very, very last turn the Renegades tried a TTM of their own, but due to just one bad scatter roll, the plucky Gobbo ended up one square away from the endzone as the final whistle blew. So near, yet so far, and a 2-1 victory for the Halflings!

As good as those games were, though, I'm still sticking with my Arsenal-inspired "Dead and Gooners" Undead team in the Portal League!

It's the future, I've tasted it!

No, not garlic bread, but the 4-2-3-1 formation.

From the 'WM' formation of a sort-of 3-2-2-3, through 4-2-4 to 4-4-2, tactical formations progress ever onwards.

Spain use it, Germany use it, France use it (not that they're much of an advert for the beautiful game at the moment), Holland use it, Brazil use it. Other countries that I have yet to bother to research use it. Yet England, under Capello, are still steadfastly in the 4-4-2 era.

4-4-2 gives you a solid defensive line, a strong and versatile midfield, as well as attacking options. It appears to be the perfect, obvious formation that any and every team can play slight variations of. It is also, however, torn to ribbons by a five man midfield, so both uber-defensive and uber-attacking teams can rip a basic 4-4-2 to bits, if they're good enough at what they do. Which most national teams are.

4-2-3-1, on the other hand, can provide all the answers to beating 4-4-2. It gives you an extra defensive midfielder, which I'm partial to, in order to command and control the centre of the park. It gives an even stronger defence, with six men back, allowing the Full-Backs to bomb forward. The three offensive-minded midfielders roam between midfield and attack, supporting the defence and propping up the lone striker as and when.

The only thing this relies on is a World Class striker. You need a Torres (or Villa, injury-dependent), a Klose, a Robinho, Tevez, Robben or, hang about, a Rooney.

Three attack-minded players in the middle of the park allows you to exploit the talents of Gerrard and Lampard, fitting them in where they play for their clubs so brilliantly without forcing them to occupy the same space. It also gives room for a Joe Cole or a Theo Walcott, and would even allow the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips and Aaron Lennon to blaze useless crosses three miles higher than Peter Crouch can jump whenever they felt like it.

Capello makes them wear suits, turn off their phones and turn up to dinner on time. Surely he can make them play a modern formation? I'm not asking for the 4-6-0 that Manchester United managed to win the Champions League with, where world class midfielders-come-forwards like Ronaldo, Rooney, Giggs, Scholes, Tevez and Nani seamlessly and telepathically rotate responsibilities and make defending against all 6 of them practically impossible. Just a little experiment in modernity, please, Fabio. Assuming you're still here by the time Poland-Ukraine 2012 comes around.

And assuming we're there, of course.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Winter is Coming Back

So I'm going to do it to myself again.

A Game of Thrones.
A Clash of Kings.
A Storm of Swords.
A Feast for Crows.

It's perhaps the best Fantasy series ever, and I'm going to re-read it. Again.

I first stumbled upon it in 1996 in a mobile library that visited my tiny village that was, and still is, barely more than a hamlet. It instantly hooked me, and ever since then I've been waiting eagerly for my next fix. It was probably the lovely red tones of the cover (pictured) that did it, centred with a lance-armed knight who actually looked like a knight, in full armour. The Robert Jordan quote has been credited with kick-starting a lot of readers' interest in the book itself, and I have to say it wasn't a negative point for me, either.

Cut to fourteen years later and the series currently stands at four-and-a-half awesome, incredible, door-propping books. Seriously, these things are now so large, it's like they make other commonly-used large things look small by comparison. BOOM! Take that, simile, in yo' face!

So that's what I'll be putting on my bedside cabinet tonight. Plus, if I take my time, news of the fifth book might be forthcoming by the time I've finished all four, then it'll be time to re-read them again, to try and finish a Feast for Crows the night before my copy of A Dance with Dragons is ready and waiting for me. Until then the tales of Jon Snow, Dany, Arya, Ned, Robb, Jaime and Cersei will be swimming around in my head once more.

The first step to overcoming an addiction is acknowledging it, and I think this blog entry qualifies. So, one more time, grab the book, open it to the Prologue, and say it with me:

"We should start back," Gared urged...

Monday, August 02, 2010

The irony of this complaint is well noted

At the moment, there's just a little bit too much Kesha being blasted at my ears. Ke$ha. Whatever.

Yes, I have her album, Animal, which reminds me of Avril Lavigne's Let Go from 2002. Dear lord, was that eight years ago? Anyway, I'd quite happily describe both of those as 'not the worst albums in the world', in that I quite like them.

There's something about the 'I'm doing pop but pretending not to' vibe that grabs me in both of them, whether it's electro-dance or teen punk rock, and a selection of listenable tunes in both.

Unfortunately, thanks to commercial radio that's just 'on' in the office as background, I'm bombarded with Kesha's autotuned and vocoder-infused voice about a dozen times a day. Whether it's one of her songs (her current single 'Your Love is My Drug' is being rinsed the most) or one of her collaborations (be it with 3OH3, Taio Cruz or Flo Rida) she appears to be on the radio 24/7.

Yes, I am aware that I'm bringing up Kesha, despite complaining she's having too much exposure. Perhaps it's justice for the girl who broke into (the artist formerly and now currently once more known as) Prince's house just to leave her demo tape to try and get him to produce her music. Perhaps it's just radio playlist compilers hearing something with the latest musical trend of massive Autotune, and wondering vaguely what songs T-Pain does other than guest on 'I'm on a Boat!', as they add it to the top of their charts.

The only song of hers I genuinely dislike is 'Stephen'. Partly because I know of several Stephens, none of whom I would recommend writing a love song to, and partly because I absolutely hate songs which are all about "I'm completely in love with someone who doesn't know I exist, LOL j/k I'm actually pathetic!".

There are only so many times, too, that I can hear her chuckle 'I like your beard' and be forced to recall the accompanying amateur-hour video with gormless, beardy, vacant male model in tow.

I think I'm going to go and clean my teeth with some bourbon instead.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

By Accident or Design


What made today's Hungarian Grand Prix - won by newly famed Number-Two driver and all round cool guy Mark Webber - interesting was not the astounding pace that the Red Bulls found (again).

Nor was it how comically wide David Coulthard's chin is, how bad McLaren were, or how many people Martin Brundle found to hilariously interview on the grid pre-race.

It was the accidents.

Vettel was looking on course to have finished the race, changed and showered before Button even made his first pit stop. And, as the usual procession sweeps round the track became apparent, we were having to wait for the first round of pit stops for any form of excitement. Someone would do themselves a quick in-lap and out-lap and mystically manage to leap ahead of a car they had, until then, been level-pegging with. Then the whole procession would fly around the Hungaroring again until the winner was inevitably crowned in a sea of onlooking disappointment and regret that yet another of sport's most glamorous events was, in fact, really boring.

Accidents occurring is perhaps the only thing that can really make a Formula One interesting. Sure, overtaking at break-neck speed is nice, but how often do we see that?

As the boring, annoying, all-round arse Sebastian Vettel took roughly a second per lap extra lead against the dour, annoying, easily-provoked Fernando Alonso in the opening laps, the race was getting very tedious indeed.

Hilarious calamity ensued as a piece of a Force India's front wing promptly fell off in the middle of the rack. Cue everyone coming into the pits quick sharp, forcing Vettel to mount the kerb in an "oh shit, that's the junction I need to get off at!" manoeuvre; prompting a Renault and a Force India to crash into each other in the pit-lane at precisely the same time, and indeed in the same camera shot, as Nico Rosberg's new rear-right tyre flying off, scattering pit crew left, right and centre.

The Safety Car period that was needed to clear the debris off the track was also great, as it gave Vettel a drive-through penalty for maintaining an extra-safe distance behind the Safety Car, meaning Webber could scoot off into the distance.

So, other than the accidents? Bore. Ing.

Oh, except Schumacher trying to put Barrichello in the wall, which was scary-yet-hilarious, too. Must be because Schumi really is The Stig and hates having his lap time in the Suzuki Liana around the Dunsfold track beaten.

Online, your Avatar must never die

Avatars should never die. Online, your personal projected self-image should be the ultimate Mary Sue version of yourself. Good-looking, athletic, talented, super-cool, fashionable, charming and all the rest. It would surely take the most self-loathing of individuals to create an online persona that's worse than they are.

In Nationstates, I therefore created Simeone Di Bradini who is, all round, perfect. Playing for the nation I'd want to run (and not necessarily live in, of course) he has slowly grown in six years of RPing from international-class striker to something quite beyond any possible expectations I have had for him.

Were you to tell me in 2004 that my Under-21 striker with an exotic, mangled version of my name (because we all know that 'Simone' would read as a girl's name, the Inzaghi brother notwithstanding) would have a Cup named after him, be effectively immortal and perhaps the most-famous, or at least most widely and shamelessly promoted, character in NS Sports, then I'd have a hard time believing you.

My national leader/dictator died, at some point, because he just had to. Different stories needed to be told with different characters, and the timeline had to move on to tell another set of tales. Though often his mouth spoke my thoughts, he was still just a character. SDB is, totally, an avatar of me in that forum.

We're talking about things past Author Avatar here. Way, way, past Reality Subtext. We're talking a protagonist whose name is the same as the author's Screen Name, and who has the same attitudes and interests (except that he also has Impossibly Cool Hair).

So who did I have to go and use as an image for him? Of course, the only person I've ever been starstruck by, and even that was from 20 yards as he was doing his thing: taking a corner for England. The character will never die, of course, as now he's entered perhaps the strangest of RP realities, where he exists timelessly, now and forever, as the construct of... something or other. It's all a little complicated and even I barely pretend to understand it.

What got me, though, was someone else has killed off their Avatar. They named the nation after themselves - as is common - using their real name. Their avatar had the same name, picture, belief structure, sexual preference, quite simply they had put themselves in the game.

Eventually, this avatar was killed off by a disease the user himself fought and beat. And now we have a Memorial Tournament for that character, that the user plays in.

Even to me, with my online self-absorption, that's just plain creepy.