All entries for Saturday 24 June 2006

June 24, 2006

short attention span leads to madness….

Yes, once again I've got bored waiting for a football match to finish and have wandered off to write blogs entries while most of the population sits glued to their seats. I can't help but think that the sole purpose of extra time is to irritate people like me who have just about learnt to sit still through 90 minute games.

But, I'm determined to pretend that this is at least a pseudo intellectual post, and so I'll start the following rant: what's most irritating about football is not the game itself, but the (oh, that was a goal, I can hear the shouts from next door) encyclopedic knowledge of certain fans (mentioning no names….).

While I confess that it hardly gets my pulse racing, I'm perfectly capable of watching a game whilst enjoying a pint or two, and while I really don't give a toss who wins, I can just about recognise a particularly skillfull play and get a dim sense of recognition of the level of talent involved. I begin to feel the hounds of death pursuing me when the conversation turns from the game at hand, where I can at least make naive observations and ask stupid questions, to discussions of the players' histories.

Before long, I begin to suffocate under the weight of footballing trivia diffusing into the atmosphere, and soon the game at hand has faded into insignificance in the face of potential questions concerning the crucial period during the last decade in the history of a particular (oh look, an interruption: apparently Argentina scored that goal just now. It was a great goal. Oh and I am informed that play is apparently not a noun one is allowed to use to describe football, at least in England.)

Where was I? If Isaac Newton had had to put up with such interuptions, we'd never have discovered gravity.

The point is that game that is apparently the focus of all this activity, or even the sport itself is of course of negligible significance. What is actually important is the act of following the sport. This is why it is of far greater significance to ascertain from one's fellow sport fan not what their opinion might be on a particular aspect, say, of a game, but instead on their opinion with regards to a an aspect of what one might term the metagame, viz what team they choose to follow. Perhaps I was wrong in my earlier rant with regards to football, perhaps football represents not primitive tribalism manifested in a modern age, but instead is essentially an insecurity of identity.

In other words, we (well, not me personally, of course, lesser beings, amongst which I shall assume for the sake of rhetoric I fall) construct for ourselves a metagame, a semiotic universe of sport in which obscure trivia are elevated to heights of absurd significance, purely for the purpose of using it as a tool of social classification. We are thus able, through the application of a few judicious questions, quickly able to situate a new acquaintance in this metagame, and are thus able to establish not only our derived position respective to them, but are hence able to establish a mutual identity.

(This ties in with my sudden conviction that all identity is inherently subjective; formed only from interaction with others: before he met Friday, Robinson Crusoe did, in a sense, not exist.)

As a proof, or rather as a potential line of supporting evidence, consider the odium with which are considered pretenders to the throne of fans: those foolish individuals who claim a greater knowledge of a sport than they in fact possess. Is this not a demonstration of a fundamental insecurity in the heart of the accusers? Is it not the case that –

Bugger. I've run out of beer.

the lamorna wink

1 out of 5 stars

I really have no excuse for reading this somewhat sorry excuse for a crime novel. Visiting a house filled with high quality literature, I happened to notice the title and, having lived half my life not 20 miles from Lamorna, glanced through the first through pages. I should probably have put it down there and then, but the trap had taken hold. Off I went through 435 dull pages of forgettable characters investigating a four year old murder and a week old disappearance. In Lamorna, a village that even the Cornish consider boring.

On I plodded, and, in due course, the murderer was unmasked after a fairly predictable chain of revalations, and an even more dull side story of a friend of a friend going to get married (or something like that) meandered along to a less than thrilling conclusion. Apparently this is one of a series featuring Richard Jury as the detective, but in this book he really played only a minor role, which perhaps explained why the major detective figure seemed to do nothing except stare at people with a piercing blue gaze whilst not taking his coat off. (I swear, my pulse beat faster every time he didn't take that coat off.)

I suppose if you're a diehard Martha Grimes fan, if there is such a thing, you might want to read this book. Otherwise you'll probably find more entertainment in the TV listings.

Charles Stross – The Atrocity Archives

3 out of 5 stars

At the more scientific end of the "new wierd" spectrum, Charles Stross's first novel is a blend of Len Deighton and H. P. Lovecraft, with maybe a hint of Neal Stephenson. It's great fun, but ultimately lacks the spark of Stross's Accelerando.

In a bizare parallel world, a combination of ancient lore and modern cryptography has enabled a branch of the security services to gain mastery over what is effectively magic. Not that they use it for their own good, mind you, but to combat the possible invasion of earth by various extra–dimensional demons. Bob Howard is drawn into a tale of equal parts horrific encounters with demonic entities and office politics.

Once again, I've not got the book to hand to provide quotes, but Stross's prose is as entertaining as ever, if perhaps not quite as perspicacious as in his later books. Unfortunately, the plot fails to measure up. The book's divided into two stories, and the first, The Atrocity Archive is gripping enough in a lighthearted way, but the same humourous tone defeats any real sense of menace. The second shorter tale The Concrete Jungle centres on an idea that's interesting enough (and vital to the plot, so I won't reveal it here), but fails to generate much of a story from it.

This book is ultimately a superior sort of brain candy, comparable to a £3.79 pack of marshmallows I bought from curiosity the other day from Selfridges. A superior product by far than most of what's on the market, but when all's said and done, not something you can derive sustenance from.

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