Sunday, 30 December 2012

The Worst Advert of 2012

At this time of the year, it is customary for people with opinions to write pieces about the preceding 12 months. As I lack the conviction to go through and write a full review of the year, but I have got the energy to write about my least favourite advert of 2012. Although I wrote about some least favourite adverts earlier in the year, this one didn't feature on my earlier list. It may appear innocuous to the casual viewer, but it is actually such a hive of evil that it needs to be tackled. The advert is...

DHL TV Spot - Partnership with Manchester United

Now, before anyone accuses me of a scorning hatred for Manchester United, I will point out that this advert could feature any team, and I would dislike it. Hell, even if it featured Dan Harding prancing on a big screen TV in the middle of Tokyo or Matt Derbyshire creepily leaning out of the side of billboard to stare at a beach, I'd hate it.

Why is it so bad, some of you might be asking (others will presumably just shrug, and get on with their lives). Let's start with, sensibly, the beginning. Sir Alex is in his office at Old Trafford, presumably returning from Carrington after a hard day's training (he is, afterall, in the DHL branded training kit).What you also may not be aware of is that SAF, the best manager currently in English football, is also responsible for a raft of secretarial duties at Old Trafford, including outgoing post and arranging couriers. Hence his playful shooing of the delivery driver; this shows they have a fantastic relationship forged through regular contact. Maybe they often spend their days off together at the Trafford Centre. Good to see Sir Alex is keeping it real, despite his success.

After the DHL van transformed from a vehicle, forged of steel and plastic, to a pulse of light and pure energy, we emerge into Tokyo to see Ryan Giggs interrupt an interview during a training session at an international stadium (DHL kit again), to receive the pure bolt of energy, run with it, before firing it out. The bolt of energy flashes round the world to Rio, where some street children are playing football. They're not inspired to play football by the fantastic national side, some of whom grew up playing street football like those kids do; instead inspired by that renown Brazilian player, Javier Hernandez. Next, we pop over to a branch of Comet in some Dubaian Meadowhall, where a slightly shifty looking Rooney checks to make sure the coast is clear, before smashing the ball/pulse of raw energy so hard it travels from the Middle East to Old Trafford again, before engulfing Old Trafford in some kind of halo.

Now, it's undoubtedly bad, but is it the worst advert of 2012?


It appeals and glorifies everything I dislike about football. I understand in the modern world of sport, a global appeal helps to shift more merchandise and allow you to pay your footballers a little bit more; but it creates a group of supporters who only follow a foreign team thousands of miles away. Why support a local Japanese side, when you can buy yourself a United/Chelsea/Liverpool shirt and claim to be a fan, because you watch them on TV and follow Rooney/Cole/Downing on Twitter. It's the globalisation of football; and the homogenisation of everyone following the same dozen or so big European teams, at the expense of local sides. Reminds me of someone I knew at college who said he was a 'Real Madrid fan', and would join in discussions of football; following stories of 'Forest beat Port Vale 2-0 at the weekend' with 'Real were sick this weekend, thrashed Seville'. How can you be a Real Madrid fan when you've never visited Madrid, and your family have no ties with Spain? It's good to take an interest in football around the globe, but it begins to appear slightly strange when you support a team playing in a league on the other side of the globe instead of one in your own country.

The advert also demonstrates the trend of more pointless commercial exploitation of football. I know even Derby had training kit sponsors, but DHL shelled out £40m for a deal that would see their shirts prominently displayed in private, and on Sky Sports News during their weekly 'footage from Carrington showing footballers practising football' slot. Unless the supply chain/logistics managers of several big companies happen to watch a lot of midday Friday Sky Sports News, I wonder if it isn't £40m wasted.

And the music's bad.


Just read that the Glazer family bought out their contract with DHL, as they believe they can get more than £40m. So the advert isn't just bad, it's also out of date - so a massive waste of money. At least it won't be on t'telly no more.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

My Best Albums of 2012

I'll be the first to admit, I can't write music reviews. I've tried; and most of the time I end up using clichés more suitable to a sports report by Alan G. Partridge. However, similarly to the aforementioned Partridge; I've not let a lack of any discernible ability stop me from writing about my personal five favourite albums of 2012. So, enjoy reading through a couple of hundred words of pretentiousness, awkward phrasing and (possibly) poor taste in music. To compensate, I've created a playlist of my favourite tracks from all the albums, and put them into a Spotify thing that should work.

5. Beacon - Two Door Cinema Club

The follow-up to the band's 2010 début album Tourist History, is no dramatic departure from the busy, guitar-driven style that made Two Door an indie disco favourite. Whilst some may comment that this shows that the band have played it safe, the whole album is a more polished affair, and is more subtle in its execution; however, this does mean that album lacks some of the raw energy of Tourist History. The first track, Next Year manages to set a fairly brisk pace which the album continues, whilst Someday is perhaps the track that sounds most like it could have been lifted from their first album. My personal favourite track on Beacon is Pyramid, which starts quietly enough, before building to a frantic and chorus. Whilst, overall, the album possibly doesn't quite match the high bar the band set themselves in their first album, it's still a very good listen from start to finish.

4. Have Some Faith in Magic - Errors

I must admit I was only introduced to Errors in the first few months of this year; but I'm unsure how I managed to miss them for all these years (well, being behind the pulse of new music may be the biggest reason). The Glaswegian electro group's third album is crammed full of multi-layered synth and powerful guitar riffs. The album's opener, Tusk, is a melting pot of soaring electronica and a more gritty, distorted rock sound. The album, like Errors' others, is hardly what you'd describe as 'radio friendly', with most of the tracks coming in at over 4 minutes long, with the bass-driven Pleasure Palaces lasting for over 6 minutes; and the lack of any vocals (bar for the odd burst of digitised chanting or harmonising with the melodies). This has to be one of the best electronic albums I've heard for while (not that I'm an expert, mind you), and it's already been followed up by a mini album (New Relics), so hopefully Errors can continue their good work.

3. Coexist - The xx

Another band who had to follow up a fantastic début album were the XX. It was never going to be easy, but in Coexist, the band have certainly not disappointed. I would say they've built on their unique sound of stripped down vocals and guitars, with rhythms masterminded by Jamie xx; but for Coexist, the sound was less built on and more reduced to the bare bones. The album is perhaps at its best when enjoyed when listened to as a whole; as tracks flow into each other; leaving the listener hanging on to every note. If you do break the album down, my personal favourite tracks are the single Angels (not related in anyway to the Robbie Williams' track of the same name) and Tides. Following a Mercury award-winning album would always be tricky, but Coexist has proved it could be done.

2. In Our Heads - Hot Chip

Hot Chip can always be relied on to provide an excellent (if always slightly nerdy) album, and they didn't disappoint with 2012's In Our Heads. The album really demonstrates the band's range; from the up-tempo dance tracks of How Do You Do and Night And Day; to the slower and more vocal-led melodies of Let Me Be Him. My personal highlights of the album are the opening track Motion Sickness, and the hypnotic, 7-minute Flutes (which provided 2012's "Unwatchable Music Video"). As the band's fifth studio album, In Our Heads seems to suggest that Hot Chip are capable of producing a mature, yet still immensely fun record.

1. An Awesome Wave - Alt-J

This may seem a tad predictable seeing as the album has been lauded by everyone (except Pitchfork, who inevitably managed to wriggle a reference to Radiohead into their review), but this first album from the Cambridge-based quartet is worthy of all the praise (and the Mercury Music Prize) that it received. Alt-J (not to be confused by X-Factor filler 'Union J') have created a fantastic record that blends folk, dubstep, electro and more traditional indie rock seamlessly, from the heavy sound and awkward rhythms of Intro, it leaps to the haunting a cappella that is Ripe And Ruin, before again switching to the syncopated drumbeat and powerful piano chords of Tessellate. Matilda offers a slower and more hushed tone to the piece, before the band let loose on my favourite track, Fitzpleasure. The lyrics can be baffling, and the vocals strained; but it all adds to the unique sound of the record. Like The xx and Two Door Cinema Club, who have had to follow up fantastic débuts; I can't wait to see what else Alt-J have to offer.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Uncharted territory

This piece was originally going to be about local radio (general jist - it's dead and probably isn't worth saving bar local football coverage; but that's for another time); but in doing some brief research, I looked at the charts for the first time in years.


Stock image of lots of records acting as a metaphor for the number of copies needed to be bought before your single gets anywhere close to outselling 'Gangnam Style'.

I'll try to be as fair as I can. Four tracks were R&B, which, whilst not my taste, I'll let pass. One was Robbie, who does deserve some kind of reward for services to tabloid editors and Gary Barlows everywhere. Three of the 'Top 10' were the mundane products of the television talent trawls (on the current evidence, there appears to have been extensive overfishing), one was the current soundtrack to a certain department store's advert (only in the world of snowpeople, is knitwear an acceptable present), and one is Gangnam Style. The album chart offers little else more exciting; bar the presence of SuBo (whose album was launched with the questionable Twitter hashtag of '#SusanAlbumParty') and some Christmas albums you can tell only shift any copies due to strategic placement in branches of Asda up and down the country; enticing impulsive shoppers that with Christmas only a month away, they desperately need to buy a soundtrack to fill even the most magical of days with intense mediocrity. 

My own Spotify chart is maybe not representative of wider music tastes...

The thing is, are charts even relevant now? The singles chart is based on physical sales of CDs (although I struggle to imagine anyone who buys any of the singles featured on a CD) and downloads; but in a world of streaming, actually purchasing a track is becoming increasingly rare. There are differences between the official top 10 and the most-played charts on streaming services. Six tracks appear in the Spotify 'Top 10' recent most-played that aren't in the official 'Top 10' (on a side note, my recent most played does feature New Order topping the charts, so I might be slightly out of touch with modern culture). How would you begin to classify streamed tracks though? How many plays of a track on Youtube would be equivalent to one full purchase? This would also enable the charts to be much easily manipulated - can you imagine the droves of One Direction drones playing 'Let's have a party but not tell Mum and Dad' (or whatever their tracks are called) repeatedly to ambush the charts. However much I would love the chance for 

Are the charts even representative of the modern music landscape? With so many alternative acts managing to spread their music over the internet, music has been diversifying away from the mainstream recently. This undoubtedly leads to a dilution of music; with more artists managing to attract attention outside of the traditional channels. Does this reduce the charts' importance? Are they anymore of a relic of simpler times, reduced to showing nothing more than the purchasing whims of a small section of teens.

More popular than Joy Division? Possibly. More eco-friendly? Again, possibly. 

Maybe a more apt question is whether the charts ever mattered? Lots of acclaimed bands (e.g. The Smiths, Joy Division, Arcade Fire and many more I can't be bothered to 'Wikipedia') were never massively successful in the charts; whereas Mr Blobby (Christmas number 1), the Wombles (four top 10 singles) and Black Lace (three top 10 singles). Serious acts don't always thrive in the charts, whereas wishy washy pop and novelty singles will always do well (Crazy Frog?). So the questions about the importance of the charts might be pointless; rather like the charts themselves. They may become less important; but they never were anyway.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Forest: From crisis to quiet confidence

The start of this season was a strange one. After the sheer sense of relief at somehow ensuring survival in the championship at the end of last season, a flood of optimism arrived down the Trent (via Kuwait) in the form of the al-Hasawi family. As I wrote a piece about how the club could look to prosper in the future without the backing of an owner with deep pockets, we were promptly snapped up by one, immediately rendering a lot of my points obsolete. With 13 games gone, it gives me an excuse to have a look back and see how Forest have fared with the first (approximately) quarter of the season already down on paper.


Like Luke Chambers. But Spanish. And not playing for a side rooted to the bottom of the Championship.

It was less of a spring clean at the City Ground over the closed season than a wholesale clearance sale. Except that to have a sale, you have to exchange a product for money. We were more allowing neighbours to come into the house and pick what they fancied, such was the contract mess with several players. 5 players in total left the club on free transfers; with some greater losses to the club than others (see Anderson, Paul and Chambers, Luke). But, with the sale of Gunter to Reading and the beguiling decision of Freeman to request a transfer from a regular place on the Forest bench to a regular place on Derby's bench; the club were left with only one senior defender. The recruitment of an entire back four was a priority; and was surprisingly completed without problem. Greg Halford and Dan Harding joined from both '-hampton'-based clubs; whilst the Reds recruited Danny Collins from the potteries to provide solid base to the central defence. These three have played well, and although prone to the odd mistake, have proven themselves to be as good as the individual players they replaced. And Dan Harding is a left back; a position the club had appeared to have retired out of respect to a certain former left-sided fullback. The club complemented these permanent recruitments with Sam Hutchinson, a loanee from Chelsea who has impressed whenever he has played; a young fullback with a promising career at a higher level than this; if he can beat his injury woes. Flying in from the far east (Norfolk) Daniel Ayala has, after a shaky start, grown into his position at central defence; and after a small injury woe, Norwich have even been nice enough to send us a courtesy defender (Ward) whilst he recovers.

Defensively, the club have been generally solid. At home, only 3 clubs have conceded less and only 2 clubs away from home have conceded less (although another 4 clubs have performed as well defensively as the reds on the road). However, despite the good defensive stats, the club have only been able to keep a clean sheet twice all season, which isn't a problem when we're scoring; but could pose a problem if we encountered another lean spell like last winter. The foundation of these good defensive performances has been the man between the sticks, as Lee Camp has seen a return to form after some less than impressive performances at times last season. Despite my oft-repeated statement to Forest-supporting friends that Camp will make at least one stupid fumble in every game; he has made some outstanding saves; and is playing with a confidence we haven't seen since the Scottish-manager-who-will-remain-nameless was in charge.



Guedioura and Reid celebrate the Irishman's equaliser at Bolton

Forest seem to have a wealth of midfield players. Even last year, when we were woeful, you could man an invasion of the Isle of Wight with midfielders sat on the bench, contributing little. We still have a glut of midfielders, and could still take Cowes with some of those who don't make the starting XI, but we seem to have a better set on and off the pitch. Last season's fan favourite from the Black Country, Adlène Guedioura, made his stay more permanent, and has helped provide a creative spark in the centre of the pitch (and, with referee's enough practice at spelling his surname, after 4 bookings and 2 dismissals). The very exciting signing of ex-Arsenal starlet Henri Lansbury, has so far, seen injury restrict his ability to leave an impression on the side; but has shown glimpses of his talent in the games he has featured in. James Coppinger, on loan from Doncaster has offered another option on the wing. Possibly the most important signing of Sean O'Driscoll's new-look Forest side, and the best value signing in the division; is Simon Gillett. The midfielder, a free transfer from South Yorkshire, has filled the much-missed void left by Paul McKenna's departure last season, breaking up play and initiating many attacks. 

But new arrivals aren't the totality of the story. Andy Reid and McGugan have continued their good form from the back-end of last season, both contributing a number of goals from set pieces. Reidy in particular, has become one of my personal favourite players, possessing a physically improbable ability to remain agile, dance away from defenders, and yet still look like he's enjoyed one or two many basket of Wings from Hooters. Joining Reid is another past favourite, Jenas. He's not really had a chance to shine, but has still managed to get on the scoresheet. And whilst talking of fan favourites, this season has seen the return of Chris Cohen after a lengthy absence through Injury. On his day, Cohen is far and away the best player in our squad, possibly in the division. I'll skip the cliches, that have been oft-written about Cohen; but needless to say, I'm glad we have him back.



Billy Sharp celebrates opening the scoring at Bloomfield Road by having a bite of a fan's hot dog. 

We've managed to rid ourselves of several goal-shy strikers (quite literally sending McGoldrick to Coventry), and have brought in a new look strike-force. And, on paper, it is a forward line that should give most defenders a headache. Previous target Simon Cox has finally been snapped up from West Brom, and has been joined by another previous darling of Doncaster, Billy Sharp. Dex has found a great goalscoring form, with 4 goals already, getting us out of jail plenty of times. And (something, something) Tudgay. 

We've been a little Jekyll and Hyde with regards goalscoring however. At times, we've struggled to create much or breakthrough; whilst recently, we've managed to put three past current leaders Cardiff City. We already have 11 different goalscorers, and after Sharp's broken his scoring duck, we can only hope he'll find the same form that won him plaudits at the Keepmoat.


The Manager

SO'D, proving you can be a decent manager without having to start arguments with the chairman week in, week out

O'Driscoll has been a breath of fresh air. For too long we've either had dysfunctional managers who enjoy airing out dirty laundry in the open, blaming fans, shady 'transfer acquisition panels' or unseen 'dark forces'; or tactically useless managers who bypass the midfield or are called 'Colin'. SO'D has got us playing nice football; and although he has got line-ups wrong and at times has been outmanoeuvred tactically (surprisingly enough, by the duff Clough) - but we've only lost twice this season. He's managed to make substitutions that have changed games, and won us a number of points. He's quietly turning us into dark horses that could sneak into the top six come the end of the season.



So far, so good. Apart from a slight wobble in September, we've impressed at times, and are proving hard to beat. All we need now, is to be able to find a way to convert draws into wins, and we can begin to believe that Forest might be possible of more than just midtable consolidation.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The science of nonsense

Science is brilliant. I mean, it's given us so much. Pasteurisation. Electricity. Immunisation. The ability for anyone to send celebrities on the other side of the world abusive messages over the internet. And, finally, mankind's progress has peaked. Never will anything better be invented. We should shut down CERN, sell off NASA and convert laboratories worldwide into branches of Greggs and SportsDirect. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you: L'oreal Paris Revitalift Laser Renew.

Now, it's fairly clear to most people that all other anti-ageing creams are almost always no better for skin than smearing your face in industrial slurry; but this is a different kettle of chips, apparently. Here's my blow by blow deconstruction of some poor marketing intern's piss poor attempt at science.

1. 'Imagine if you could laser renew your skin'

The advert starts brilliantly, asking the viewer to imagine what life might be like if you could harness the power of photons emitted from excited atoms to effectively time-travel your skin back a decade or so. Of course, lasers can only really revitalise skin by slicing off the saggy bits. Just ask Bond if, when strapped to a metal table with a high powered laser powerful enough to slice through gold bars, the first thought to cross his mind was 'Oh well, at least the skin around my gentlemen's area will be renewed'. So, firstly, the concept of lasers doing skin any good is a fairly hard one to grasp.

2. 'Hyaluronic Acid' and 'Pro-Xylane'

I thought at first 'Hyaluronic Acid' was one of those pretend substances that screenwriters like to chuck into movies to 'fill the gaps' in real science, like turbidium, kryptonite and the laughably named 'Unobtanium'. But, a cursory search on that well respected scientific knowledge repository (wikipedia), revealed that 'Hyaluronan' actually exists. Apparently, it's pumped under the skin to smooth out wrinkles, a little like an internal Polyfilla. So maybe it does work. Pro-Xylane, is also, apparently, the latest 'big thing' in 'anti-ageing "science"'. But these chemicals aren't included in this advert due to any alleged youth inducing properties they may have. It;s because they look sciencey. How can you doubt something with THREE PERCENT Pro-Xylane. It could cause your face to melt into a dermatologically youthful puddle; but who cares BECAUSE THERE'S MORE OF IT THAN EVER. It sounds complicated, so it must work!

3. Vague Claims

Insert vague claims about skin appearing 'firmer' and wrinkles 'reduced'. They could have referenced some clinical studies that could provide evidence for the biblical qualities of Hyaluronic Acid, Pro-Xylane, whatever they have in it, to really back up their claims. Heck, even the standard '80% of women tested could tell the difference' statement based on a survey of a dozen participants would have added more gravitas. But they don't have this either. What they do have instead though is...

4. The Daily Mail.

"IT REALLY WORKS" - The Daily Mail. Evidence from the most respected scientific organ (albeit it, the appendix) is the proof they are going to sell this product on. The validity of any scientific claims made by the paper which is obsessed with classifying every object known to man into either a cause of or a cure for cancer are, arguably, questionable. One can be forgiven that if the Daily Mail states that something 'REALLY WORKS', you may want to seek a second opinion from a more reputable scientific journal. Like Nuts.

5. 'Trust Science'

The ironic end to an advert that uses science as nothing more than a glossy veneer of respectability to sell yet another identikit anti-ageing cream. I've seen programmes featuring Derek Acorah which promote a greater trust in science.

Today a man broke the sound barrier protected by nothing more than a big coat and a helmet. That's what science is really about. Unfortunately, it seems to be invoked more to sell overpriced cosmetics to people worried about their appearance, than to explore the world around us.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

From an album launch to a city relaunch

Usually, the most interesting thing in a shop at 4pm on a Sunday is the sight of shop assistants willing the last 30 minutes of opening to travel quicker than a proton round a hadron collider. Last Sunday at 4pm, a small record shop played host to something fairly more intriguing than bored staff members; as indie group Dog is Dead played a short acoustic set to celebrate the launch of their debut album; All Our Favourite Stories. The band were great, with the intimate atmosphere of the store providing a perfect venue for Dog is Dead's mellow, laid back indie sound; scaled back to the basics. The album is a a rewarding listen, alternating from up-tempo pop songs such as Glockenspiel Song; to more languid tracks such as Get Low, which have clear echoes of Bombay Bicycle Club. Some of the tracks feel a tad too long, but this is a small point. Maybe the most exciting thing (well, to me, maybe), is that the band hail from Nottingham.

Nottingham has hardly ever left any kind of impression on the British music scene. Whilst venues such as Rock City are a staple on many bands' tour itineraries (and the Ice Arena plays host to a whole plethora of chart cloggers), the city's bands hardly make it beyond the county boundaries. When compared to places such as Sheffield, Leeds, Bristol, Oxford and Newcastle, it becomes apparent just how much of a dearth of breakthrough music acts Nottingham has suffered from. It seems to be entangled with a much greater image problem the city has. Nottingham is seen as city blighted by gun crime and gang warfare. Even the city's most notable resident is, technically, a criminal. Nottingham's image problem is persistent, with the writer behind BBC's drama Murder:Joint Enterprise described Nottingham as 'murder capital of the UK'. 

Image problems, can be overcome however. Sheffield is a case and point. Portrayed in 'The Full Monty' as a city ruined by the industrial decline of the eighties, intensive regeneration has led to the transformation of the steel city into a modern and vibrant place. It is not inconceivable that Nottingham could shed its image problems, especially with the renovation of the station and the Broadmarsh shopping centre (a place so desolate that it resembles the apocalyptic aftermath of a bad science fiction movie). Maybe this potential upturn in fortunes can be linked to the beginnings of a breakthrough for the Nottingham music scene. Alongside Dog is Dead, singer Jake Bugg is starting to make waves with his Bob Dylan-influenced brand of folk music; with his own debut album soon to be released. It is a small start, but hopefully the momentum will bring with it more artists and musicians with the quality to make it on a bigger stage. And, as a parallel, maybe Nottingham can better the tired stereotypes, and reinvent itself as a modern city.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Damn those hazy 'Summer Daze' (with Blackberry)

When John Logie Baird first managed to transmit an image through the air to a box, which could then reproduce the image, he must stood and wondered what possibilities his machine offered mankind. Maybe he foresaw the broadcast of the first moon landings; the advent of a television service where we can watch any event unfolding anywhere live; maybe he envisaged a world where television is so prevalent it holds pride of place in almost every room in the house. You can even get a television built into a bed. A frigging TellyBed! Could he have imagined that!? However; if he was half the visionary that he is remembered as, he would probably have predicted that in 87 years time, his invention would be used to broadcast T4's 'Summer Daze with Blackberry'.

Very 'Skins'

If you haven't heard of Summer Daze with Blackberry, I'll outline the premise briefly. A group of eminently shallow characters move from different festivals (mostly in the UK, but they pay a brief visit to 'Ibiza Rocks), with some vague semblance of 'plot' strained to cover up the fact that the program is simply a 30 minute infommercial for RIM's Blackberry line of phones. I use the term 'plot' sparingly however, as it is mostly just the different members of the cast sleeping with each other in varying combinations (of course, keeping in contact using the excellent and brilliant Blackberry Messenger Service, exclusive to Blackberrys and in no way comparable to a plethora of other apps available on other phones, say, Whatsapp). And for a program set in different 'music festivals', which are generally renown for containing live music, there is surprisingly, well, little music. The episode set at Latitude (unfortunately, I didn't see them there) featured all of 45 seconds of Metronomy's set; so 4 days of music condensed down into less than a minute. For a gang of people who are touring music festivals, they all seem too preoccupied with their Blackberry-brand smart phone, and couldn't really give a rhino's arse that they're missing the music, and more generally, the point.
Generic member of cast #1

Summer Daze with Blackberry is the culmination of two modern trends in television. The first is structured reality shows. This isn't necessarily a bad thing (I have a guilty enjoyment of Made In Chelsea), but it has a tendency to resort to the absolute base level of entertainment (think 'Geordie Shore'). You could simply stick a camera into any branch of Yate's on a Friday night and attain the same level of entertainment, for a fraction of the cost. The second development is the blatant product placement. It's now legal for product placement in British TV, so long as the viewer is informed before the show (by a voiceover and/or the 'MAGIC P' logo). But there's a line to be drawn between 'product placement' (e.g. Jamie Oliver using Heinz Ketchup prominently) and 'product programmes' (e.g. a programme about some yoofs travelling round festivals mostly flashing a certain phone about with the name of the phone in the title). Will more shows become extended adverts, punctuated by sex and bad acting by nobodies. Will anyone care?

John Logie Baird probably won't. We don't even use his TV's anymore.

To finish my blog, here's some photos of phones you can buy instead of Blackberrys. They're probably better than Blackberrys, and if you buy one, marketing executives at RIM will hopefully not help fund a second series of this dross.

Not a blackberry
Also not a blackberry
Again not a blackberry
None of these are blackberrys either.
May lack 'BBM', but makes up for it by not funding awful programmes.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The future needn't be bleak for a frugal Forest.

The future for Forest remains unclear, as off-the-pitch machinations determine exactly what next season could hold for the club. Regardless of the wealth of the new owners, it should be a priority of the club to become as sustainable as possible. This means no more unaffordable marquee signings, or last big paydays for ageing Premier League journeymen. With a possible exodus from the City Ground this summer, the immediate future seems bleak. For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on how the team can be organised to try and guarantee us Championship safety (if not more) on a smallish budget.

Both Cohen and Blackstock have been major losses for the Reds this season

“It's the skewer, isn't it? In the shish kebab”

Any successful team needs a strong backbone on which to build a team around, and I believe Forest have the makings of one of the strongest in the division. Up front there’s Blackstock, leading the line and holding the ball up. Cohen, in the middle of the pitch, is the engine; chasing every ball; hopefully returning to a level of play which means we won’t miss the hugely impressive Guedioura. If we can keep hold of Lynch (who should be the priority to keep), he’s proven himself to be a more than capable, and ever improving, centre back. Injuries to Blackstock and Cohen certainly dented the Red’s chances of a better season; and I think establishing continuity with this trio provides a solid basis on which to hang other players off. Of course, with Cohen looking like he’ll miss the start of next season, whether Cotterill will have these three available to play week in, and week out is improbable. Lynch looks increasingly set to leave on a free, but hopefully the club can make a strong enough case for him to stay.

After spells at the Stags and the Magpies, is it Freeman's time to make his mark at Forest?

“You’ll win nothing with kids”

Despite the winter departure of Bamford to the much wealthier Chelsea postcode; academy players could have a huge role to play in the club’s fortunes. Kieron Freeman has made waves across the Trent at County, winning the Football League's young player of the month award; and, rather amazingly, is a left-back! For once, a transfer window can pass without a desperate scramble for a left-sided defender; and he’s certainly earned himself a shot at making the position his own. Jamaal Lascelles has impressed on loan at League One play-off hopefuls Stevenage; and has reportedly had attention from Premier League sides. Hopefully he too can make the step up to the main side with time; especially with the potential dearth of central defenders. With Camp coming up for criticism; and fan opinion split on Paul Smith; Karl Darlow could make a case for at least a place on the subs bench. He too has performed impressively on loan; and whilst it’s only at Newport, maybe soon it’s time to start giving him a few run-outs in cup matches.

Reid played a pivotal role Forest's survival this season

Using what we’ve got...

Whilst there was a lot of justified criticism of players throughout the season; it must be remembered that a lot of these players are still very good at this level of football (despite appearances). Now, despite the opinions of some fans, Majewski isn’t the answer to every problem posed. But he never got a fair chance under either McClaren or Cotterill, and I think that if allowed to play in a creative central role, could certainly help the team find goals that were missing all so much. Like many, I was sceptical to see Andy Reid return; convinced he’d turned up for one last pay check. But, his work rate and skill have surprised, especially towards the latter end of the season. Someone told me that they thought he should be awarded the captain’s armband next season, and I’m inclined to agree. And there’s the permanent question mark over Matt Derbyshire’s head. He’s proven himself to be a prolific tweeter, but whether he will be given another chance (or deserves another chance) to demonstrate his eye for a goal is another question.

McCleary ran riot against an awful Leeds side; but can Forest find another non-league gem?

...and getting what we've not

The club never really replaced Earnshaw with a natural finisher. The age-old search for a 20-goal-a-season striker lingers; but at the new frugal Forest, this search will have to be conducted in the lower leagues. The scouting system can obviously find good players from smaller clubs (see the now in-demand McCleary); but efforts should be refocused on young hungry talent, rather than established players out of our shopping basket. With the apparent youthfulness of the Red’s defence next season; Higginbotham should be a target to provide experience and a level head. With McCleary’s departure looking gloomily inevitable; another pacey winger on the right seems to be a priority; unless Anderson can be utilised in a way that saw him light League One alight with Swansea.

It looks as though Forest are approaching a new era in the club’s management. With sensible and effective planning, the cost-effective approach doesn’t have to be the losing approach.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

How the press have constructed Roy for failure.

Now, for something completely different: a story about Roy Hodgson getting the England job!

Martin Samuel has written a passionate defence of Englishsports journalism, especially with regards to the hounding of England managers. He states that journalists want good results, and it can only ever be 90 minutes on a football pitch that determines the fate of a manager. It almost had me fooled. Until this.
Pinnacle of humour. Honest.

Just harmless fun. Well, it presents Roy Hodgson as an almost comedic character, who shouldn’t be taken seriously. A little nibble at his credibility. It’ll continue as well. Little jibes on the back page; little one-liners; each slowly eroding public confidence and belief in his abilities. Not informed by ‘results’ or 90 minutes on the pitch. Informed simply because the press didn’t get their man. To put it into context; could you imagine the same paper putting a front page story mocking Harry Redknapp’s basic illiteracy? No. Ok, there are no obvious puns to do with an inability to read or write; but there’s also the respectability that the press have created for Redknapp throughout the past decade or so. Roy has always been held as a sort of comedic relief for the press; a pretender. He’s failed at Liverpool and Blackburn, can only win things with small clubs in small leagues. He doesn’t really count. I believe Hodgson has a range of failings (I’m not sure whether he’ll be able to keep into check the egos that currently play for our country, for example); but that has been contributed to by the fact he’s been constructed by the press as a manager who ‘just isn’t good enough’.

Harry modelling West Ham's range of attractive pyjamas outside a housing estate in Peckham

Compare this to Redknapp. I’m not going to carry out a scientific or representative survey; but Redknapp has received mostly positive press attention; and not without merit. His Spurs side have been a joy to watch at times. But since Capello’s resignation, and the subsequent freefall of Spurs; the criticism has been laid at the feet of the players. ‘Distracted’; ‘heads not with it’. The criticism wasn’t laid at Harry’s door; it was the players’ fault. There are some other managers who would find such a slump in form would be their own fault. Redknapp was one of the contenders for the job; but the press clamoured for him as soon as the role was available. If an expert is telling you that Redknapp is the best option; then people will believe that Redknapp is the best option. Similarly, if people are telling you that the moon is made of cheese, well you might just start believing the moon is made of cheese.

Where Charlie Adam's penalty ended up eventually. On a cheese moon

To believe the media have no sway over public opinion on football is naïve at best. The tabloid press have always had the ability to control and frame the discussions surrounding the national game; especially the England managers job. They choose what to report and what not to mention. They choose which rumours merit a discussion, and which are simply thrown to the floor. They determine which angle will become the hegemonic representation churned out and plastered onto the back pages for years to come. A chance to knock someone down always sells more than a chance to build them up.

I’m sure Roy of the (Blackburn) Rovers has grown a thick skin, but it’s not just about him. It’s about the control football journalism holds over the debates surrounding our national game. Redknapp not getting the job isn’t the same as Clough not getting the job. To say the two aren’t in the same ballpark is an understatement. Clough is in the directors box, whilst Redknapp's watching it in the pub 200 miles away. But yet, the press believe it is, and so therefore add a layer of mystique to the already 'constructed' character of Harry Redknapp.

Hodgson could be a terrible choice. But the press should let him ruin it for himself, instead of going out of their way to ruin it for him.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Olympic Advert Bingo

In celebration of the fact it's only about 100 days until the London 2012 Olympic games, I'd thought I treat all you faithful readers to a FREE gift! Below is a 'cut out and keep' Olympic Advert Bingo card, for you to print out and play 'Olympic Advert Bingo' FOR FREE in the long, laborious run up to the start of the games.


  1. Settle down in front of the television, and get your bingo card ready.
  2. When the adverts start, keep your eyes peeled to see whether any of the characteristics listed on the bingo card appear.
  3. If you find an advert with one of the characteristics, cross it off.
  4. Continue playing for the duration of the advert break.
  5. First person to get a row or a column gets a 'bingo', first person to get all ticked off wins a 'house'*!
  6. If no-one has a 'bingo' or 'house', continue the game into the next ad break
  7. Want to play again? Simply print off another bingo card and wait in front of the TV
So there you have it, a short, sweet blog post today; but an eternity of fun to be had. FOR FREE!

*Not a real house

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Advertising; or 'you can’t polish a turd, but some fancy editing can make it look like chocolate mousse'

Now adverts are rarely designed to be enjoyed. Their primary and only function is to convince us to lighten our wallets in exchange for some product. You can’t polish a turd, but some fancy editing can make it look like chocolate mousse. However, some adverts appear to have been designed to generate nothing but unadulterated hatred. Here, in no particular order, are five of the current worst offenders.

“The HTC One Freefall Fashion Shoot”

Being HTC is easy. All you need to do is make a phone that’s like an iPhone. But not an iPhone. Bingo. The marketing of said phone is also, not impossible. It should go something along these lines: “This phone is very much like an iPhone. It does all that crap the iPhone can do. But it’s cheaper. And you don’t have to sell your soul to Apple; just Google”. Easy.

But this is what they come up with. What a minute of hatred. Look at this pretentious prick taking photos of a woman who appears to have been caught in an explosion in a mirror factory. But fuck me, he’s doing it whilst falling from an airborne vehicle. And he’s taking photos of the human mirrorball on his mobile. So, if I want a phone to use in my everyday quest of photographing people plummeting to earth; I should buy a HTC. If I want one that has apps that can check email, make fart noises or send text messages; I should get an iPhone. That’s the intended message. Right?

“HSBC TV ad -- Lemonade Hong Kong Dollar”

Banks have had a hard time recently. After being blamed for the recession, who could blame them for wanting to present a more human face. SO LET’S USE A HUMAN. A REAL HUMAN GIRL. Which would be fine; apart from the fact that this girl has all the charm of an Ikea bookcase. The ruthlessness in business she demonstrates indicates to me in 30 years time she’ll be the CEO of United Tobacco and Landmines. The theme of the ad is the ease of globalisation, cunningly demonstrated through her ruthless fleecing of foreign tourists. That’s the spirit of global co-operation.

“Sensodyne Advert - Dr. Mark Hughes”

Science is wonderful. Unless you see it on an advert. To marketing men, science is no more than a bunch of buzzwords and complicated images that make it look like ‘something’ is happening rather than ‘not much’; which is usually the reality. “Novamin” sounds rather less than a magic tooth repairing enzyme thing; and more like a tatty cruise ship. Sensodyne decide to up the all-round debauchery of science by having a dentist talk to a shakey mobile phone camera (not a HTC One X as he’s not currently hurtling towards terra firma), before a fantastic stat informs us ‘9 out of 10 dentists recommend Sensodyne’. I wonder what that one dentist who didn’t recommend toothpaste would offer us instead. Toilet duck? Brillo pads? Canesten?

“Walls Talking Dog - New Sausage Roll Advert 2011 - "Garage"”

“He can’t really express himself, cos he’s just a bloke really”. What a phrase. The fact that this ‘bloke’ is the kind of guy who gets emotional at eating into cylindrical portion of meat-flavoured carcass engulfed in a layer of ‘brown’ is one thing; but to then make the viewer endure this ecstasy-induced nightmare of a teeny-tiny ugly dog playing a keyboard, singing about the joys of sausage rolls and the inability of anyone with a Y chromosome to express joy even at the prospect of garage-bought toilet fodder is just insulting. File it under the new category of ‘adverts for people who gather their knowledge of current affairs from what the Page 3 girls say'. Which appears to be an increasing section of the public.

“adidas presents Take the Stage: all 2012”

The pride. The glory. The sporting moments that will linger in the collective memories of the world, created on our doorstep. These are all things that this advert left me hating. The Olympics are something we should look forward to (and I am, you may be surprised to hear). However, adverts like this one are doing their damn hardest to ruin it before it’s even begun. Throw together a veritable smorgasbord of ‘of the moment’ celebrities into the same situation. Get one of them to make a fairly unlistenable 60 second soundtrack, whilst adding in the token ‘celebrity over the age of 30’ to try and appeal beyond the target audience of consumers aged between 15 years old and 15 years old. End with a rooftop party that only happens in these loud, neon enhanced advirtual worlds to complete the unlikeability. If this is a taste of the kind of turgid rubbish we have to sit through that is vaguely linked to the Olympics, I’m glad we’ll never host another major sporting event. Let Qatar have the World Cup, so long as they take our adverts as well.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

FourZeroFourSix's guide to the multiplex, Part I: Bay-esque Explodathons

This blog post marks the beginning of a new series on FourZeroFourSix looking at the state of present-day cinema. To give you a flavour of what to expect, I was planning on calling the series ‘Aren’t Almost All Modern Movies Absolutely Shit’. First of all, lets carve up the corpse of the genre of film that will henceforth be known as ‘Michael Bay-esque Explodathons’.

If you’re not familiar with Michael Bay, you’ll certainly be familiar with his work. He’s the name behind Armageddon, Pearl Harbour, Bad Boys and, most notably (for us, anyway) the Transformers series. I must point out, I do enjoy Armageddon, and Bay is not an all-round awful film-person; but he has a bombastic style of explosions, loud noises, over-reliance on CGI and convoluted storylines which have influenced a whole modern genre of film. Looking at the film listings for this week (April 2012), and his influence can be seen in films such as ‘Battleship’, ‘Wrath of the Titans’, ‘John Carter’, and even the ‘half-term wallet emptier’ Journey 2. But what exactly do these films have in common.

We don't dislike you Michael. Just your contribution to film.

First; and a recent development that isn’t exclusive to just ‘Bay-esque Explodathons; is a slavish devotion to large scale special effects, especially CGI. Whether it’s animating a large space pebble gliding through the cosmos, a very large aquatic vehicle or a bunch of oversized Hasbro toys that change from cars into inelegant destructive robots from out of space; these films feature special effects at the expense of other facets of films, such as character development, or plot. Now, in the ‘olden days’; films could get away with spectacular special effects and nothing else, as the standard of special effects was generally a man moving a toy around in front of a black table cloth. But now, special effects and computer imagery are taken for granted (partially due to the rise in ‘Bay-esque’ movies), so audiences expect (and demand) more than just impressive special effects. But yet, these films don’t offer much more.

You can CGI a huge man on fire, but your fancy computer trickery can't implant a storyline.

The next common feature is, in general, a lack of originality. Look at the list of ‘Bay-esque’ movies currently showing. We have 2 sequels, a film based on a book and a film based on a game sold by Woolworths for £2.99 back in the day. And, even the two sequels are based on films based on popular stories. Transformers, of course, are based on the inane toys released when Reagan and nuclear Armageddon was all the rage. Comic books (Iron Man, 300, Thor), and theme park rides (Pirates of the Caribbean merits a place here purely for the barrel scraping desperation of the later films) are a common source other films that I’d classify as ‘Bay-esque’. This doesn’t mean that Bay-esque films can’t be original. Far from it, in fact, and the worst films of the genre (i.e. 2012) are original ideas. It seems basing your Bay-esque film on existing source material allows the scope for creating a car-crash of a storyline; at worst creating a mediocre hash of a popular cultural text; and at best making the storyline hard to find in amongst the film.

"I've got an idea for a film. It might seem a little 'out-there', but stick with me..."

Thirdly, bizarre celebrity casting is fairly common. As the storyline; and subsequently, characters; are peripheral concerns at best, this means you can cast anyone in your film. This opens the door for celebrities galore to inhabit roles they couldn’t get in other films that have any of that ‘character development’ crap. Take Rihanna in the forthcoming Battleship. What the hell? Rihanna? Rihanna? Was she cast on her ability to play or suitability for the role? Or was she cast because she’s Rihanna. A maybe controversial statement, but is Dwayne Johnson cast because he’s Dwayne Johnson (the action actor), or because he’s still seen as ‘The Rock’ (you could argue that he is now a successful actor, but his debut in the Scorpion King is harder to justify). Of course, having a celebrity in is a brilliant idea, as it attracts the fans of said celebrity to see the movie, SIMPLY to see their favourite star. I look forward to when ‘One Direction’ fans flock to see the boys in ‘MULTIPLE EXPLOSION LOUD NOISE MONSTER FILM IN ANCIENT TIMES BUT IN SPACE’.

Bay-esque films have flooded the film market in the manner similar to a blocked toilet. Most modern action, sci-fi, ‘historical venture’ and even family adventure films owe an unfortunate debt of gratitude to Bay-esque films. Bay-esque films, despite being as critically well received as a 4 hour celluloid ode to sewage, mostly do very well at the box-office, hence why studios will continue funding them. They’re expensive to make, but boy, do they make the money back. However, the complete and utter failure of John Carter might be a sign that cinema-goers are growing tired of the formulaic blandness of ‘Bay-esque’ movies. 

We can only hope, as it’s only a matter of time before someone decides to remake Blade Runner, with Deckard (played by Taylor Lautner) battling a 40 foot tall Roy Batty (Michael ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino), on the moon, whilst trying to win the love of the replicant Nicki Minaj (played by Nicki Minaj) backed by Nickelback.


Monday, 26 March 2012

That Tory party pricelist in full...

Not wanting to do another blogpost on politics, this is too good to pass up on. Since the revelation that donating £250,000 is enough to secure yourself a meal with the Prime Minister, there has been public outrage (of sorts). But what you haven't seen is the full price-list Cruddas kept in his pocket*. I can exclusively reveal it now:

ConservativesForYou - The ideal gift for anyone aspiring to influence government policy

  • £250,000 - Dinner with the cabinet member of YOUR choice.
  • £350,000 - You'll feel like you've been deported 'out of this world' with your very own tailored Theresa May 'Spacesuit', SIGNED by the woman herself

Look positively futuristic in this fetching 'item of clothing of tomorrow'
  • £400,000 - Fancy a gift to really make a song and dance about? Treat a loved one to a private John Redwood concert (N.B. John will not sing any Welsh songs)
  • £500,000 - Bored with the same old schools. Get your very own customisable Free School or Academy, yours to do what you want with.
  • £550,000 - Want to stand out from the crowd? Let William Hague be your very own personal shopper

Is this stylish fellow Gok Wan? No, why it's our very own 'Fashion Secretary', William Hague!

  • £600,000 - Looking for that romantic getaway with the chance to facilitate major arms deals? Private holiday for two with Liam Fox (N.B. If Adam Werrity asks, you know nothing)
  • £700,000 - Why not take lunch that one step further, and have dinner cooked for you by the cabinet member of YOUR choice
  • £800,000 - Dislike somewhere in the world? Why not declare war with a minor country of YOUR choice
  • £900,000 - Treat someone you care about with the gift of good health, by choosing a hospital or major NHS clinic to own.
  • £1 million - Fancy being the man with his finger on the nuclear button? Nick Clegg's master? The head honcho? Buy our Prime Minister experience, and for a day, you will legally be in charge of the country.

For only £1 million, you too can be just like David Cameron!
So don't delay; place your order now to guarantee delivery before 2015!

*I made it up, if you can't tell.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Oh my GOP: Super Tuesday and other American electoral exploits

Did you notice anything special about last Tuesday? Of course, it was Super Tuesday; where republicans in a whole glut of states over the pond decide which of the candidates is the least bad. Now, politics in Britain has always been a rather bland affair compared to the USA. Now, we do have our fair share of fruitcakes (Nadine Dorries; and of course, the ever “loveable” Nigel Farage); but they are mere scones compared to the wedding cake of the American political scene. As much as you can dislike the Conservatives, they don’t inspire the same level of “Oh Mary Mother of Jesus” reaction that the GOP presidential hopefuls do. So, if you’re wondering who is in the race to compete against Obama in the Autumn, here’s my handy cut out and keep guide.


Despite having a first name that sounds like an item of winter clothing; ‘Mitt’ is the current front-runner in the race to win the Republican nomination. However, he has decided to make his task as hard as possible by being as unlikeable to everybody as is possible; whilst pretending to be all things to all people. The seemingly moderate candidate (although ‘moderate’ needs to be contextualised in a country where they think the best way to combat gun crime is to make sure everyone has a gun; and the comedic dystopian vision of terror that is Fox News is considered a serious news outlet) has upset economic conservatives by implementing a healthcare system in Massachusetts that proved to be quite similar to the downright-socialist Obamacare health model. Despite being a Christian, Romney isn’t the right flavour of Christian for the Christian right; instead being a Mormon, and not one of those ‘real’ Christians. And Romney has upset moderates by jumping on every conservative bandwagon going; from abortion to gay rights. It also doesn’t help that in a time when there is growing scepticism of neo-liberal capitalists that Romney is absolutely stinking rich. I mean, he earns about $21 million a year. And the guy just doesn’t understand that when a lot of people are struggling to make ends meet; comments such as “I don’t watch Nascar, but a lot of my friends own teams” don’t go down well. But he is the front runner….


And this is why. The main challenger to Romney is Rick Insantorum. This guy isn’t just conservative with a capital C. He’s conservative in several mile high granite letters. He once remarked that gay relationships were tantamount to bestiality; believes that global warming is a conspiracy to provide an excuse for “THE LEFT” to increase government intervention in our lives (rejecting all mainstream scientific evidence) and that creative design (i.e. magic man did it) was a “a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes”. TAKE THAT SCIENCE AND REASON. Santorum has done well in states where the distrust of Romney is greatest; and the love of the wackiest fish in the barrel drives the vote. Santorum is the definition of unelectable. A beaker of stagnant water would hold more mainstream electoral appeal in the Presidential election. But for some reason he is still in the race. Coincidentally; his surname has been appropriated by campaigners to take on a whole new meaning. Google 'Santorum'.


The man who sounds like a bad skin condition is the third lame duck to chase the GOP nomination. He’s trailing somewhat, having only managed wins in South Carolina and Georgia (his home state). Newt is kinda hard to work out. He’s supported Tea Party candidates; but is also (surprisingly) fairly environmentally friendly. But other than that he spouts the same songs that the increasingly loud section of Republicans enjoy hearing: God; gays are bad; God; Obama is the reincarnation of Stalin; and a bit more God. In fact, the only interesting policies are his pro-Space and pro-child labour policies. He is committed to a moon base by 2020 (8 years to build it, I’m sure it’ll happen) and believes that unionised, full-time workers should be sacked and replaced by kids (real vote-winner there).



Romney will win the nomination, as he’s the most electable the Republicans have. But at the moment, that’s not saying much. After the drawn out battle between nominees; each attacking each other at every available opportunity; it clearly provides Obama with an easier run-in; especially if the economic outlook of the USA continues to look ever less doomy. However, for us over on this side of the pond; watching any American election race is truly fascinating; even more so when we look at our own politicians; and as unlikeable as they can be; they are nothing compared to our friends across the pond.