Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ice Hockey game - Cardiff Devils 13 (Thirteen), Edinburgh Capitals 2

There comes a point in a one-sided contest when you just feel sorry for the team getting spanwhengled. In fact, Matt and I applauded the two Edinburgh goals out of a mixture of pity and pleasure at seeing some relief from the relentless Cardiff attacking.

This was a total shellacking by Cardiff who camped out in the Edinburgh end throughout the game. The Capitals man of the match was their debutant netminder, who let 13 goals in, it's true, but that was out of 68 shots on target. The Devils hit the frame of the goal a further three times, and there were several passes across the face of goal that were agonisingly close to being turned in as well.

13 was possibly charitable to the visitors.

And yet, despite the huge winning margin, there was something vaguely unsatisfying about the game. Firstly, it wasn't really a game, a match, a contest. It felt like we were there to watch shooting practice. Secondly, the way the Edinburgh players mustered up their reserves of strength to take up position for restart after restart was very commendable, but made me feel like I was watching a humiliation, and that was unpleasant. Thirdly, it just wasn't very exciting.

Edinburgh have financial difficulties and a barely full roster. Some of the kids on the ice looked very, very green. Cardiff were faster, fitter, stronger and more organised. That is not a recipe for a great sporting spectacle. There was none of the tension that you get in a meeting of near-equals.

So a great result in the statistics table. But not such a great result in terms of the ineffable 'competition' that makes sport really worth watching.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Burn fast; burn bright

Having had a wisdom tooth out last Wednesday I spent the best part of two days sleeping or watching TV, specifically DVD box sets of Firefly and Seinfeld, and comedy reruns on Fiver.

Having watched the 'roundtable' extra on the last season of Seinfeld, it struck home to me the bravery of the show's creators to walk away while it was still the number 1 American comedy show. Nine seasons = 180 episodes, and to still retain some credibility is difficult. The final days of Friends and Frasier as they limped on to their respective twee finales shows the wisdom in the Seinfeld tack.

In a strange way, a show with a much shorter run also shows the truth inherent in the saying that the stars that blaze brightest burn out fastest. Firefly was axed after just 14 episodes, by network executives who didn't really get the show.

In the sci-fi fanboy / geek community this is still regarded as one of the most criminal acts of TV exec-land (although whoever greenlighted a second season of 'Joey' probably deserves to be spanwhengled too). And yet, I'd say it's given us a gem.

True there are all the 'could have beens', the unanswered questions, many of which were only loosely tied up by the feature film Serenity. But equally, we were spared the painful lurching of genius being lost in the mundanity of season after season. Sci-fi afficionados will remember the way Farscape deteriorated until it was put out of its misery, or how boring The X-Files became with its ponderous story arc, or the sheer dullness of many of the Star Trek spin off series.

Firefly still seems fresh and fun and playful, a few years on from it's ever so brief run in the sun. Maybe it burns the brighter because its life was so short.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Word of the week: Spanwhengle

A semi-learned friend gave me a 'lost language' day to day calendar and Wednesday's this week was rather apt.

Spanwhengle (obsolete): to violently shake or knock around.

As in: I had a wisdom tooth out on Wednesday and I feel spanwhengled.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Vehicle crime sinks to a new low

I spotted this on the pavement opposite my office.

You know times are hard when people are jacking wheels off buggies...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

First freelance theology post for 2011

A question about discipleship that was quite interesting to answer.

Freelance theology needs more questions! Post them via the site.

Things you learn from Wikipedia

"Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo" is a grammatically correct sentence.

Confused? Read the article on Wikipedia.

I'd like to find a way of working it into my next work writing project...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Gig review - The Robbie Burns Band @ Funky Buddha, Cardiff

It's difficult sometimes when you know an artist (musician, writer, or actual artist type of artist) in a personal capacity and they ask for your opinion on their work. However, I'd prefer an honest appraisal / critique from a friend than have someone tell me I was amazing because that's what they thought I wanted to hear.

Sometime last year Robbie Burns gave me one of his CDs and asked me for honest feedback on it. I told him it was very good but to me it sounded like the CD you'd make before you make your first CD. It had potential, but you could tell he had some way to go. I probably said some other stuff too. I can't remember. But he has improved, so in a small way I may have helped.

Based on this gig, I'd say Robbie has the potential to do this kind of thing for a living. Obviously, a whole slice of luck is needed to break it in the music business, but if he gets that opportunity, I can see him doing well.

For starters he has done something quite smart and surrounded himself with talented musicians. He also handled some technical difficulties well - yes he was sweating a bit, but swapping to another person's guitar halfway through a song would phase much more experienced people, so he did well with that. I liked that he acknowledged the problem to the audience, but powered through it. It shows maturity in a performer.

His own songs were well-constructed. There was some variety to them, although it helps having a band there to give you that breadth of sound. I'm not sure if they would sound a bit samey if they were sung solo with just an acoustic guitar accompaniament. Maybe that's me. I find after a while singer/songwriters all tend to sound a bit the same.

Is there room for improvement? Yeah, I think so. I'd like to see the band let loose more often on genuine rock numbers, and maybe see Robbie step out from behind the guitar on one or two songs to just sing as a proper frontman.

The first set, comprised of covers, was very well put together, but I was starting to get a bit bored by the time the third Jack Johnson cover came along.

I tend to think of Jack Johnson as the musical equivalent of wallpaper - you want something to liven up the room, but nothing you need to concentrate on. I'd like to see Robbie and his band throw in a real surprise - maybe a Dandy Warhols cover, or some classic rock, just to make people go 'oooh, wasn't expecting that.'

And given that he had a girl singing with him who was able to do a very good homage to Norah Jones, a genuine duet would be a good addition to the repertoire. 'Another Heart Calls' from the All American Rejects third album would fit the bill.

But those are minor quibbles for a young musician who is still doing his A-Levels, and whose primary audience seemed to be from his Sixth Form (being in that crowd made me feel oooold). There is apparently an album on its way - I'm pleased to hear that and on the basis of what I heard at the Funky Buddha, I'd expect it to be a good few levels up from his demo CD.

I also had a moment of reflected glory, when a person I know in a completely different context who happens to be one of the parents of the warm-up act came up to me and said 'Hello' and what was I doing there.When I said I knew Robbie, she asked 'How?' and I was able to say 'I'm one of his youth leaders.'

Yeah, that's right. 0.000000000000000000000000000000000000001% of what you see up there might be attributable to me!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Star Wars character? Or just terrible proofreading

We all make mistakes. But sometimes they slip through the net.

I saw this t-shirt in Tesco and quite liked it, until I looked at it up close.

(Note the official merchandise tag)


Monday, January 03, 2011

2010 - that was the year that was

It's 2011. It seems like only last week it was 2010...

A year in review always seems more momentous after the fact. But some stuff did happen worth chronicling.

In a journal entry in early January I wrote: "I do feel like I need to get out of [workplace]. I feel disengaged and unmotivated. Money is tight in the organisation but I feel very calm... I think I just don't care about [workplace] any more." Four months later I was gone.

Rumours of redundancies at work. It doesn't help when a load of redundancy packs are discovered on the printer (for real!). The eventual announcement reveals over 30 redundancies are needed - over a third of the organisation.

While under notice of redundancy I did a few days freelance in the office where I would end up working just seven weeks later!

Had a great morning at United Christian Broadcasting talking through issues in the news from a freelance theological point of view.

Was interviewed for and offered a new job the day before my birthday. Then I went to the theatre and met Dirk Benedict!

Started the new job. Spent a week in London with my Dad at the London Festival of Stamps. Didn't vote for either of the parties in the new coalition government.

Did a talk in life group about Satan. 2010 was a year of heavy topics to talk about - Evil and Satan over two talks, the Trinity in 20 minutes and another 20 minute one on Heaven. Also, one of my stints on UCB ticked off a vocal Christian bigot, so that was good.

Disappointing Florence & the Machine gig at Cooper's Field in Cardiff. Why was it disappointing, I hear you ask...

Being made redundant has an upside - you can get training paid for by the government. I had a fun couple of days playing about with Dreamweaver. Also saw Terrorvision at yet another 'we said we retired but we quite like gigging so here we are again' gigs.

Saw Toy Story 3. Nearly cried. Went to a wedding. Didn't cry. I don't cry at weddings. I don't really understand why people do. That's just one of the many things that makes me feel like I'm abnormal.

We spent a week in Sussex with Mum and Dad. A number of highlights - Beachy Head, Dungeness, a cliff railway in Hastings, a steam railway in Tenterden.

Fantastic gig - Barenaked Ladies in Bristol. Probably number 2 on my all-time gig list. Also the place where we heard Joel Plaskett for the first time.

A football match, an ice hockey match, my boss won a national award, and laser combat in the woods with the Glenwood Taliban. What a month!

This won't make much sense unless you're a writer, too. Or maybe it will. But anyway, I had to write an introduction for a report 'from' our programme chairs. I wrote it, and rewrote it and then it got rewritten again by someone else and then they had a look at it and tweaked it, and in the final result only two paragraphs of mine survived unchanged.

Then at a national event, to over 300 of the key players from across Wales, one of our chairs got up and summed up everything we do using two of the sentences I wrote.

Those were my words. Being spoken by a very important person.

At that moment I knew what it must feel like to be a speechwriter for a president or equivalent. To hear your words articulated by someone else is incredible. It meant so much, but most of all it meant that when I wrote them I caught the essence and 'got it right'.

(In other news, the house next door is raided by the police because the tenants have been using it to farm cannabis!)

I have an enquiry about publishing my Zodiac Team novel. I also get asked to do some freelance writing for a national organisation in the New Year. My brother and sister-in-law go public with news that, tangentially, means I am going to be an Uncle. Snow threatens to white out Christmas, but fails. However, the bad weather means we don't get to the church carol service and also miss out on going to a footie match on Boxing Day.

December was some month, to end some year.

Sunday, January 02, 2011


I'm not really one for resolutions, but this year I may try something different.

This stems from a conversation that I had with my brother last week. In case you missed it, they are expecting. He asked what I thought about it and I said that generally the thing he had to remember is that nobody is ever as interested in the minutiae of your baby as you are.

It's not just babies, I said. It's true of your job, your holidays, your car, and actually pretty much anything you do in life.

People only want to hear the highlights (or lowlights). We want to know if there's something out of the ordinary. But a moment-by-moment account of every kick, every burp, every poo-filled nappy... Well, in the main, no one is as interested as you are. (The same goes for paper-heavy HR procedures, what you ate in the hotel restaurant, or whether you've roatated your tyres.)

I think I have a tendency to talk on about the things that interest me, but don't interest other people so much. So this year my resolution is to take my own advice - talk less and wait for the invitation to share. I'm sure I will bless some people by not talking so much!

I also had a funny conversation with a colleague last month. She is what I affectionately call a 'topper'. It would seem that whatever story you tell, she has a similar one that 'tops' it. We all know people like that, and she is by no means the worst person with that tendency that I have ever had to work with.

But I have that tendency too, which is why I notice it. So this year I plan to be less of a topper.

And a final resolution, because good things come in threes, is to do more writing. I may need to do this in earnest soon as I have had a tentative enquiry about the quasi-finished Zodiac Team novel I drafted several years ago. There is a long way to go on this before any definite plans are made, but I may have to rewrite chunks of it before the end of 2011.

Somehow I will have to find the time to write. If you feel charitable towards me, please wish me luck.

And, similarly, may good fortune (or divine providence if that's more your cup of tea) favour you in the coming year.