Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Downfall (2004)

The Watching Post

I first mentioned them on the blog six years ago when they were still known as Girls In A Coma but, after buying their debut album in 2007, Girl In A Coma fell off my musical radar. Their latest single suggests I have a lot of catching up to do.

A great song for those of us who still have a soft spot for jangly guitars.

. . . and Owen likes the trains in the video.

It's a fair question

The only problem with capitalism is that the workers keep getting under the feet of the wealth creators.

Hat tip to the 'I Acknowledge Class War Exists' page over at Facebook.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Rangers 1872: The Gallant Pioneers by Gary Ralston (Breedon Books 2009)

Undoubtedly, Rangers suffered at the hands – and wallets – of the English clubs, who set up raiding parties that would have been the envy of any 16th-century border reiver. First to go in 1880 was Scottish international Hugh McIntyre, older brother of Tuck and a member of the Cup Final team of 1879, who quit for Blackburn Rovers after they bought him a pub in the town. He went on to win three FA Cup-winners’ medals in successive seasons with his new side in 1884, 1885 and 1886. He was followed to the Lancashire club by founding father Peter Campbell and, although he played several times for Blackburn, he never moved to the area. Rangers lost another stalwart of the 1879 team, William Struthers, who signed for Bolton Wanderers in 1881, quickly followed to the same club by half-back John Christie, no doubt lured by the promise of riches extolled by his former teammate. The finger lingered around the influence of Hugh McIntyre, in particular, in convincing young Scots to ply their trade in the south because then, as now, there were lucrative finders’ fees up for grabs. Agents were despised and routinely beaten up and one G.L. Harrison from Nottingham had cause to wish he had never wandered down the Copland Road on 1 August 1889, when he arrived in Glasgow in a bid to lure defender John Hendry, an early darling of the Light Blues legions, south of the border.   Harrison’s plan was cunning, as he roped in then Scotland striker Jimmy Oswald (who later went on to play for Rangers) to accompany him to Ibrox on the promise of a £5 commission if they persuaded Hendry south. They had already trawled the player’s home town of Uddingston in a vain bid to track him down, but the fear of losing their top talents was so strong among many of the leading Scots clubs, including Rangers, that they regularly formed vigilance committees to keep their non-professionals (in theory at least) away from the paid ranks of the English game. Word quickly spread around Ibrox, which was hosting an amateur sports that Thursday evening, of the danger in their midst. Panic ensued and Hendry was quickly shepherded away from the dangerous suitors while Oswald, who played for Notts County, was led to safety, surviving the baying mob only because of his standing in the game and the presence of a team from the Rangers committee around him. Harrison was not so lucky as he attempted to sneak from the ground and down Copland Road, only to be accosted by two irate Bears. The full story then unfolded in the Scottish Sport, filed by ‘an eye witness’ with more than a hint of eager pleasure:

‘“You are looking for someone?” politely enquired the smallest of the two, as they came up with their prey.

“No-no,” replied the tall, handsome swell – for with all his audacity he looked a swell – but he did so with a look and hesitancy which identified him at once.

“We were told you were looking for someone,” insisted the sly, self-possessed questioner.

“Oh, no. There…there must be some mistake.”

“Were you not wishing to see John Hendry of the Rangers?”

An enquiring glance at his tormentors and a faltering “no” was the reply.

Then the second party spoke, but it was aside, and as if to his companion. “What’s the use o’ makin’ a clown o’ me. I thocht it was a good thing. I’ll awa’ back to Oswald,” and he cast a withering look at his apparently perplexed companion.

The trick had fairly trapped the agent however, for in answer to a last attempt to draw him, his wily inquisitor was at length assured, in a half apologetic tone, that he did want to see Hendry and that he had at first denied his real mission because of the fear he had of the club’s supporters, whose attentions were evidently not of the most reassuring.

“Well, this is Hendry,” said the sly one, after a little more cross questioning, and pointing to his companion who, I need hardly say, was only a cruel impersonator playing a part in the interests of his club.

The “swell” became reassured, looked more like his audacious self, and prepared to do business.

“Do you want me to go to England?” inquired the bogus Hendry after being duly introduced and informed of the terms.

“Yes, I want you to go to England.”

“Are you perfectly sure you want me to go to England?”


“Well, take that!” and before anyone could say Jack Robinson the seducer was sent sprawling on the ground with a lick which could scarcely be described as a baby-duster.  

 The elongated representative of the ascendant element in English football was not long in getting to his feet, but there was no fight in him. He took to his heels and, as if pursued by an evil spirit, careered down the road at the most undignified speed imaginable. Unfortunately for him, a crowd of unsympathetic Rangers were coming up the road as he was frantically tearing down and they, taking the situation at a glance, cruelly intercepted him and he was once more in the remorseless hands of the Philistines.

  There is no use in prolonging the sequel; sufficient to say that, after a good bit of running in as earnest an obstacle race as was ever ran, he reached Princes Street, about half a mile away, where he was mercifully taken in by a young Samaritan married couple, and allowed to sufficiently recover from his baptism of fright and fists to be able to be sent to his hotel [St Enoch’s] in a cab. When I saw the bold adventurer lying low upon a couch, blanched, speechless, and sick unto death, with several well known members of the Rangers holding his low lying head, and timing his quick beating pulse, I did think that the way of transgressors is hard. Probably G.L. Harrison will not again put his prominent features within a mile of Ibrox Park on a similar errand.

Soulboy (2010)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Occupy Downfall

I promised myself I'd never post another Downfall spoof on the blog until I'd actually watched Downfall itself but this one's too good to overlook:


Downfall is now on Netflix Instant. Expect another twenty Downfall clips posted on the blog in the coming week.

Hat tip to Philippe-Antoine over at Facebook.

Fire in Babylon (2010)

Friday, November 25, 2011

3000 Posts

No doubt there's four or five booksiveread2011 'resting' in the draft section of the blog as I write but, to all intents and purposes, this is the blog's 3000th published post.

What (slim) hopes I had for the blog way back in April 2004. Pat on the back for myself for even failing to reach that especially set low benchmark. That takes a certain talent and dedication.

On reaching this particular blogging landmark, there'll be no misty eyed look back on posts past. That's so four years ago.

No, I'll just mention that this landmark post ties in nicely on a personal note because it's Fusspot's six month birthday today.

Fusspot? Did I ever get that nickname wrong. It's like nicknaming Ronnie Corbett 'Stilts'. Zen would have been a more appropriate nickname. I guess he's just happy and content in the knowledge that he shares a birthday with a certain musical genius, and that it's also the historical date of Celtic's last decent result in Europe.

That, and the fact that he's constantly entertained and mesmerised by 'Drama'.

Now that's a nickname that's bang on the money.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Boombox by Gabriel Cohen (Academy Chicago Publishers 2007)

"are there any other black executives in your office?" she asks.

He pauses for a moment. "There's one other vice-president. To tell you the truth, though" - he grins, almost in apology - "I don't like him much."

Emboldened by the wine, by their growing intimacy, she asks, "Do you ever feel lonely at work?"

He looks sad all of a sudden. "You know," he says wistfully, "down where I come from, we have a saying: In the South, black folks can get as close as they want to white folks, but just don't try to move high in their world. In the North, you can get as high as you want, as long as you don't get close."

That seems to sum things up. She looks frankly at him, and he returns the look. In all her nervous thoughts about what might happen when two people come together, this is something she has overlooked: a chance to be understood.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Maigret Stonewalled by Georges Simenon (Penguin Books 1931)

“In a moment, almost finished, particularly as I’m afraid I must be trying Monsieur de Saint-Hilaire’s patience. Let’s go back to the scene of the crime, as they say, do you mind?”

When they got there, he said suddenly:

“You have seen Émile Gallet alive… What I am going to say may perhaps make you laugh… Yes. Do put on the light; with this foul weather it gets dark an hour earlier than usual… Well, I didn’t see him, and I have spent all my time since the crime trying to imagine him alive.…

“To do that, I want to breathe the air he breathed… rub shoulders with the people he lived with… Look at this picture… I bet you’ll say the same as I did: ‘Poor fellow!’ Especially when you know that the doctors gave him only three more years to live. A rotten liver… And a tired heart just waiting for an excuse to stop… I want to picture this man as a living being, not only in space but in time… Unfortunately I could only go as far back as his marriage; he wouldn’t ever tell even his wife what happened before that.…All that she knows is that he was born in Nantes and that he lived several years in Indo-China. But he didn’t bring back a photograph or a souvenir. He never spoke about it…“

He was a little commercial traveller, with some thirty thousand francs… Even at the age of thirty he was skinny, awkward, with a melancholy disposition.“

He met Aurore Préjean and decided to marry her… The Préjeans are social climbers… The father was hard pressed and no longer had enough money to keep his paper alive… But he had been the private secretary to a pretender to the throne! He had corresponded with dukes and princes!“

His eldest girl married a master tanner.“

Gallet cut a miserable figure in that society, and if he was accepted at all it was only because he agreed to put his little bit of capital into the Soleil business… They didn’t put up with him easily. For the Préjeans it’s a come-down that a son-in-law should sell silver-plate articles for cheap presents.

“They try to give him a bit more ambition… He resists. He’s not made for a great career. His liver is far from good at that time… He dreams of a peaceful life in the country with his wife, of whom he is very fond.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lovely Thatch

If Meryl Streep's hair doesn't win the Best Special Effect Oscar at next year's Oscars I'll eat my bunnet. I wonder who they got to play Diana Gould in the film? A toss up between Judi Dench or Helen Mirren, I guess.

Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is playing who? Geoffrey Howe just sent Denis Healey a stick of Blackpool Rock with the words 'Fuck You' written through it.

Maybe it's just me, but if that trailer is anything to go by then Jim Broadbent and his prosthetic nose were seriously miscast as Denis. He really would have made an excellent Michael Foot.

Maigret Meets A Milord by Georges Simenon (Penguin Books 1931)

“To begin with, we couldn’t see very clearly… I thought for a moment he was dead…“

My husband wanted to call some of our neighbours to help lift him on to a bed… But Jean understood… he started squeezing my hand… squeezing it so hard!… It was as if he was hanging on to it like grim death…“

And I could see him sniffing…

“I understood… Because in the eight years he’s been with us, you know… He can’t talk… but I think he can hear what I’m saying… Am I right, Jean?… Are you in pain?”

It was difficult to know whether the injured man’s eyes were shining with intelligence or fever.

The woman brushed away a piece of straw which was touching his ear.“

Me, you know, my life’s my little household, my brasses, my bits and pieces of furniture… I do believe that if somebody gave me a palace, I’d be downright unhappy…“

For Jean, it’s his stable… and his horses… How can I explain?… There are naturally days when we don’t move because we’re unloading… Jean has got nothing to do… he could go to the pub…

"But no! He lies down here… He leaves an opening for a ray of sunlight to come in…”

And Maigret imagined himself where the carter was, seeing the partition coated with resin on his right, with the whip hanging on a twisted nail, the tin cup hooked on to another, a patch of sky between the boards above, and on the right the horses’ muscular croppers.

The whole scene gave off an animal warmth, a sensation of full-blooded life which took one by the throat like the harsh wine of certain hill-sides.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Goodnight Steve McQueen by Louise Wener (Perennial 2002)

My name is Steve McQueen and I'm a bitter man. What on earth were they thinking of. calling me Steve? Didn't they realise it would ruin me? Didn't they know I'd be tortured? Didn't they understand it would be impossible for me to live up to? Did they hell. It was my mum's fault, of course, she was obsessed with him. The only reason she married my dad in the first place was because of the name. It didn't matter that he was a geography teacher. It didn't matter that he was bald at the age of eighteen, fat at the age of twenty-two, and dead at the age of thirty-three and a half. Mum had what she'd always wanted. She'd married herself a genuine McQueen.

I was three years old when my father died - he had a heart attack on a field trip to an ox-bow lake - and for a long time I actually thought Steve McQueen was my read dad. I remember my mum sitting me down to watch The Towering Inferno when I was five - spooning down my second helping of Heinz spaghetti hoops - and feeling really proud. We both clapped at the end. What a guy. He'd even managed to save Fred Astaire and the cat. What a guy. What a dad.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I bloody knew it!

From a New Zealand newspaper's Q & A with Ian Rankin, who's currently bigging up the excellent 'The Impossible Dead':

The book that changed me is

... Laidlaw by William McIlvanney. I read this in the early 1980s when I was a student but also trying to become a published novelist. It's beautifully written, with taut plotting and a clean style. Laidlaw made me think I could maybe write my own crime fiction.

It has to be said . . . Morris Cafferty is no John Rhodes.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

'It's looking good . . . .'

Hat tip to Richard M over at Facebook.

Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett by Georges Simenon (1931)

The situation was ridiculous. The Superintendent knew there was not one chance in ten that his vigil would lead to any result.

But he stuck to it, because of a vague impression; he could not even have called it a presentiment. It was more like a private theory, which he had never even worked out but which just stuck nebulously at the back of his mind; he called it the theory of the chink.

Every criminal, every gangster, is a human being. But he is first and foremost a gambler, an adversary; that is how the police are inclined to regard him, and as such they usually try to tackle him.

When a crime or felony is committed, it is dealt with on the strength of various more or less impersonal data. It is a problem with one—or more—unknown factors, to be solved, if possible, in the light of reason.

Maigret used the same procedure as anyone else. And like everyone else he employed the wonderful techniques devised by Bertillon, Reiss, Locard, and others, which have turned police work into a science.

But above all he sought for, waited for, and pounced on the chink. In other words, the moment when the human being showed through the gambler.

At the Majestic he had been confronted by the gambler. Here, he sensed a difference. This quiet, neat villa was not one of the pawns in the game that Pietr the Lett was playing. That young woman, and the children Maigret had glimpsed and heard, belonged to an entirely different material and moral universe.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Red: My Autobiography By Gary Neville (Bantam Press 2011)

Jaap Stam was sold, which was a bombshell as big as Sparky leaving, even for the players – especially for the players. We were as mystified as anyone. All kinds of conspiracies swirled around because Jaap’s exit came on the back of his ‘controversial’ autobiography; but I’ve always believed that the book was a minor factor, perhaps irrelevant. I know the manager wasn’t thrilled about the book, and nor was I at being called a ‘busy cunt’. Jaap had called me that to my face many times, and I know it was meant affectionately, but it didn’t look quite so clever spread across the front of the Daily Mirror.

He was very apologetic, because he was a big softie at heart, a big playful bear. Phil, Butty and I used to wind him up by flicking his ears or tapping him on the back of the head so he’d run after us, like a father chasing after a naughty kid. He didn’t mean any harm with the book, he’d just not thought through the consequences of serialisation, when little passages get blown up into big stories. As I explained to him, you can say Ruud van Nistelrooy was selfish when he was near goal but the headline won’t explain how that selfishness was part of his brilliance.

People came up with their conspiracy theories for Jaap’s exit, but all that counted was that the manager had lost confidence in him – a mistake, as he’d later admit. He thought Jaap had lost a bit of pace, and was dropping off. But even if that was partly true, he remained an immense presence for us in defence. He was missed.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin (Orion Books 2011)

‘Any other names?’ Fox asked.

‘One or two are probably still a bit cracked – living as hermits in the Western Isles and writing anarchist blogs. Most of them probably found that as they got older, they became the sort of person they’d previously despised.’

‘The establishment, in other words?’

‘These were bright people, in the main.’

‘Even the ones scooping up handfuls of anthrax from Gruinard?’

‘Even them,’ Professor Martin said, sounding sleepy from all the wine. ‘It’s all changed now, though, hasn’t it? Nationalism has entered the mainstream. If you ask me, they’ll sweep the next election. A few years from now, we could be living in an independent European democracy. No Queen, no Westminster, no nuclear deterrent. That would have been impossible to predict a scant few years back, never mind quarter of a century.’

‘Pretty much what the SNLA and all the others were fighting for,’ Fox concurred.

‘Pretty much.’

‘Is there anyone I could try talking to about all of this, other than psychiatric patients and hermits?’

‘Do you know John Elliot?’

‘I don’t think so.’

‘He’s on TV all the time. News and current affairs.’

‘Never heard of him.’

‘He merits a mention in my book.’

‘What about Alice Watts?’


Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Submarine by Joe Dunthorne (Random House 2008)

"Ah ha," Chips says, finding a page upon which he cameos. He adopts a whiny voice that is a bad impression of Zoe: "Jean who works breakfasts understands. She says that I am very mature for my age. She says that she has had a fluctuating waistline all her life and it's never done her any harm. She says that kids can be cruel. I told her I felt like crying in Geography when Chips said: 'I bet you eat your dinner off a tectonic plate.'" Chips looks up.

"I forgot I said that."