Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The 'other' Premier League - Neath FC v Prestatyn Town

I like going to quirky football matches. My friend Matt lives in Neath. Neath FC play in the Welsh Premier League. We decided to go. It was pouring down in the morning and we almost ducked out. But then the sun came out and a gloriously sunny afternoon provided the perfect backdrop to a game of football that only occasionally rose above the mediocre, but was quite entertaining nonetheless.

Non-league, local football is about grass roots atmosphere. There is always a cute teenage girl selling programmes. There is always someone who brings in their own supply of food - the lad in front of us who ate an entire family-sized packet of hobnobs in this case. Tea is always served in styrofoam cups that allow the heat from the liquid to burn your hand off. People are friendly, stewards are funny, there are no police, there's banter between the fans. I love it.

Neath's star player is Lee Trundle, one-time Swansea City 'legend' and now knocking the ball about in a competition somewhat below his true level. His skills and touches set him apart from every other player on the pitch, most of whom looked like decidedly ordinary unathletic blokes. He was surrounded at the end - the only autograph the kids seemed to want.

The most unathletic player was the opposition goalie. Looking at him you could believe he'd have his win bonuses paid out in toblerones. He wasn't a bad stopper though, getting down smartly to two free kicks from Trundle that would have tested most keepers, and pulling off a very good save at his near post in the first half.

Neath won 1-0. They should have had more. But Prestatyn fought hard and kept going even when they finally went behind late in the second half.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Muppets - a glowing review

There is always a danger that a reboot is going to mess up a franchise or ruin childhood memories. We had some trepidation going to see The Muppets. Thankfully, our fears were unwarranted.

My main comment about this film is that it is so nice to finally see a new film starring old characters that is not a knowing, smart-arsed, mockery of the original. This is a respectful homage to the original Muppet Show and films, and recaptures the ethos of those movies. I am so used to cynicism in movies these days, this unabashed celebration of something that was ground-breaking in its day was really refreshing.

The rest of the audience seemed to think so too. We were in a full screen with hardly any kids and there was a lot of laughter.

Yes, the plot was a bit weak. It felt like the ending was a bit abrupt. I’m not really sure the bad guy worked. But generally, there was much to love about this. In no particular order…

The references to being in a movie – just like the old movies always had.

Re-uniting the Muppet gang in the same order and from the same sort of obscure locations that they were gathered from in the first movie.

Fozzie’s dressing room in Reno.

The set-dressing – Kermit’s mug on the desk from Muppet Show days, a picture on the wall of Jim Henson.

Beauregard’s appearance.

Dave Grohl’s cameo – keep an eye out for him.

Choosing to use a montage to speed things up, followed by travelling “by map”.

Camilla and the Chickens’ musical number.

The 80s robot using his mo-dem to help in the search.

Mary’s song as the rain started to fall on the window, and the subsequent pull-away shot.

Jim Parsons (Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory) turning up unexpectedly mid-song.

The sell-out version of Rainbow Connection performed by Muppet wannabes.

A great sub-plot featuring Animal that meant he was more than just a one-joke character (for once).

Kermit’s song reminiscing about the old times.

Jack Black playing the least annoying film part he’s played in years.

Pepe the Prawn’s leather jacket in his cameo.

And Kermit’s first appearance, haloed in light and accompanied by an angelic choral arrangement.

Jongudmund's rating: 10/10 (for old time's sake)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Gower traffic jam confirms stereotype of Wales

I was on a youth weekend on the Gower this weekend. We had a great time, although I ache pretty much everywhere.

We also got a bit held up on the way home.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Late reviews of 2011 #1: Music

January has gone by in a blur.

But 2011 was a decent year for music and here are my three highlights.

1) The Suburban Legends - we saw them supporting Bowling for Soup and bought their album Getting Down to Business. Classy brassy ska-punk all the way from Orange County. Great up-tempo music to make chores less boring or the walk to work a tiny bit faster. Seriously, buy their album and be enriched.

2) Noah and the Whale: Last Night on Earth. I love this album. Several singalong songs, deceptively clever lyrics, muscially accomplished. It carries a sense of yearning for the brighter lights just over the hill and, in that sense, is genuinely inspirational.

3) Last but not least, Ceremonials by Florence and the Machine. I understand that Flo and co are divisive - you either love her (like me) or aren't particularly fussed (like Cathy) - but I think this is one of the albums that will be considered a classic in 20 or 30 years time. From the pealing church bells on the opening song to the haunting threat to leave this world and move up to a higher plane, I found the album deeply spiritually resonant. 'Heartlines' in particular has made me want to cry with the bold audacity of its chorus.

So there you go - three records of the year that already seems so long ago.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Provenance - update

Further to my post on the provenance of quotes and stories that are told as true, I emailed Itzhak Perlman's management agency, IMG.

I got an email back from a nice lady called Elizabeth Sobol. She said, and I quote:

Thanks for your note.
We have had many inquiries such as yours. As such, I have had the opportunity to ask Mr. Perlman about it and he has confirmed that the story is not a true one.
Best wishes,
So, there you go. If you ever wondered whether that Izthak Perlman 'with what remains' story was true, there's the answer.