Book Review – As Good As It Gets – The Story of St Helens’ Grand Slam Class of 2006

This book is about the glorious, all-conquering Saints team that won every trophy 🏆 available to them in 2006.

It’s written by Mike Critchley who works as the sports editor for one of the local papers, the St Helens Star. He sets the team’s year in context, not just of rugby league, but also the team’s importance to the town.

It’s wonderfully one-sided. It’s also written in authentic Northern gibberish in parts, to the point that I feel like asking my London Correspondent if it makes any sense to someone not from my neck of the woods.

The pro-Saints angle actually quite nice, because it’s so common that Saints don’t get the credit they deserve. It does occasionally leave me wanting more information or analysis than the book gives. But that’s understandable because it is quite clearly designed to be an happy overview of that glorious season, not an in-depth rugby analysis book.

The book is also rather obviously pro-Daniel Anderson. Which makes sense. It was a season of success that was partly down to his tactical choices and player rotation. It should actually have been his second title. Saints would have won the title the year before if Sean Long hadn’t had his face broken in a match against Wigan. No part of that last sentence is an exaggeration.  But the book chooses to do this not just by bigging up Daniel Anderson, which is reasonable, but by putting down Ian Millward at any opportunity. I have no idea what Mr. Millward did to the author but it must have been something. (It’s Ian Millward and the author is a journalist so I presume Millward swore at him.)

That, and a couple of “I do not think it means what you think it means” word usage issues, are the only problems I found.

It was interesting to get an insight into how a successful team works, and how it really is all the little things and building things up step by step. The Ade Gardener section, and indeed Gardener’s own analysis of both season and how wing-play works in rugby league, was probably the most interesting part, but there were lots of interesting tidbits.

As for an actual number of stars, this is 5/5 for a Saints fan, 4/5 for rugby league fans and probably 3/5 for other sport fans.

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Alvarez vs Golovkin

Since I’ve written about the freakshow and turned out to be mostly right, I feel I ought to write about an actual boxing match.  And Alvarez vs Golovkin could be a damn good boxing match.

I always feel I don’t give Canelo the respect he deserves.  Because he’s good, he lets his boxing do the talking and he doesn’t duck fights.  He’s a model professional in a time when that’s a rare commodity.

But he’s fighting Golovkin and I ❤ Gennady Golovkin.

I first became aware of Golovkin sometime around the time he moved to the US.  Mostly I noticed the number of boxers trying to avoid him.  It annoyed me because I was worried that he’d never get to make his name because he wouldn’t have strong opposition.

I am so pleased he proved me wrong.

I like tidy boxers, which he is.  I like no-nonsense boxers, which he is.  Also, you know baby-faced Kazakh destroyer 😀

His technique is not perfect; I wish he’d use his feet more to get out of range because he takes way too many punches.  It’s all well and good being an iron jaw (and an iron face in general) but, as someone said about Carl Froch, all that means is people keep hitting you in the face.

I look forward to this fight (and the BBC’s excellent radio commentary).  It should be a good match-up between two stand-up boxers with solid technique.  It’s exactly what I want from boxing.

Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde is a great soundtrack in search of a film.

I think my anger with the film is because of its wasted potential. It could, and should, have been so much better.

The acting is solid, as is the directing and the technical stuff. The make-up department deserve an Oscar nomination. No, seriously. A character goes into shock and they made the character up to the right shade of pale.

The problem is the plot.

It makes no sense. No, seriously.

Without the last two “twists” (neither of which is a twist if you’d paid any attention during the film), it just about makes sense, because of some serious legwork by the actors, mostly Charlize Theron.

SPOILERS BEGIN HERE

With the penultimate twist, it becomes a solid entry in the gay spy drama category.

Think about it, young British agent, commits a lesbian indiscretion and is blackmailed by the Soviets, becoming Satchel. In protecting herself, she loses yet another chance at happiness and gets Delphine, who is very much the girl she was, killed. But she’s got to see it through to get her freedom. It’s all very bleak and actually works with the story.

Unfortunately, that’s when they throw in the last twist.  Which isn’t a twist and ruins all that has gone before. I’m not joking about it not being a twist. If you’ve ever heard John Goodman’s voice before, you’ll get it about halfway through the film.

With the last twist, a CIA op has killed 3 Allied agents, and one defector, mostly because of a lack of communication by the CIA. And we’re supposed to be happy about this and think it was a successful operation.

Also, MI6 is so incompetent that it didn’t notice a CIA mole, who was pretending to be a Russian mole, for about 10 years.

You’ve got poor Spyglass, killed trying to do the right thing. Then poor David Percival, who is a see you next Tuesday, don’t get me wrong, and in the throws of the traditional British spy middle-life crisis, who finds out that a friend of his was killed by the Russians to protect someone who has betrayed Percival’s government, and therefore goes all dark side. We’re supposed to be happy she kills him, and that he gets blamed for the whole thing, even though she’s the mole and there isn’t a mole, she’s actually triple-agent but the CIA didn’t bother to tell anyone. And I’m like … no.

In short, when your most sympathetic character is a Stasi agent, there is something wrong with the film!

I’m not even going to go into the really weird thing where there is only 1 German actor, who gets no lines in German. All the other Germans and Russians are played by Scandinavians. Now the amassed Vikings all do a damn good job (no, seriously, all my love for Roland Møller and Bill Skarsgård) but if you’re actually filming in Germany, which this was, it’s a bloody odd casting choice.

 

 

Mo Money, No Problems – Or Mayweather is going to win Mayweather vs McGregor

Mayweather will win Mayweather vs McGregor. He was always going to.  He won it the minute it was announced as a boxing match, not that he would have agreed to an MMA match (nor should he have been expected to).  Mayweather is very proud of the 0 in his defeats column and, at this stage of his career, he’s not going to risk it.  If he thought there was a chance of losing, Mayweather wouldn’t have agreed to the fight.

People keep saying that it just takes one punch to knock someone out, and that that’s the beauty of boxing.  But Mayweather’s style of boxing has always been to avoid getting hit and he has faced far better boxers than McGregor.  Mayweather’s counter-punching style is also going to frustrate the heck out of McGregor, making a wild haymaker from McGregor more likely, which opens him up to a body-shot from Mayweather.  And Mayweather body-shots are a thing of vicious beauty.

McGregor went into this knowing all of that, and is making no bones about being in this for the money, so I don’t think even he thinks he’ll win.  He’ll still try, bless him, but he’s not going to win.

McGregor has one chance – he can win if Mayweather turns up too old.  There’s no way of telling when that will happen to an athlete (Bernard Hopkins was fine till he hit 50, other people are too old at 30.).  I think this is unlikely to happen to Mayweather for 2 reasons.

1 – Mayweather keeps himself quite near to game shape in between fights.  I suspect this causes less wear and tear and keeps him fresher than if he kept having to do big weight cuts before each bout.

2 – Like I said before, Mayweather is really proud of that 0.  If he thinks he’s lost a step, he’s going to call the fight off.

I can see the match going a couple of rounds, because, weird match against Ortiz notwithstanding, Mayweather hasn’t gone less than 10 rounds since 2006.  I don’t think it will reach 10 rounds, mind you, because I really do think McGregor’s going to go for a haymaker and get body-shot before then.  I can see it going 4 rounds.  That’s long enough that people are going to think they’ve got their money’s worth and won’t complain too much.  Although, in the UK, I do not understand why you’d pay to watch this freakshow (let us call it what it is) when you could listen to it on the radio for free.

Film Locations

An update of this post. Includes films watched up to the 15th February 2015.

First things first, I really do like the new pie chart layout from google docs. It’s much neater and easier to read.

Showing locations of films, only including real places

The number of films set in the US is the section that’s increased in size the most. As before, there’s a much greater spread of locations than in the books I read.

Locations for UK based films

Are completely skewed towards England.

Film locations, including fictional places

The outer space set films still haven’t overtaken French-based films.

Halos, Shields and Fighter Jet Canopys, Oh My!

The FIA have pre-empted this post by choosing the halo design but I was going to write something about the plans for increasing cockpit safety anyway.

Your fears are formed by what you see.

The two most recent serious F1 accidents have featured something hitting the driver’s head while they’re seated in their vehicle. Understandably, this has led to calls for fully enclosed cockpits to be used in F1. The first F1 accident I remember was Gerhard Berger’s 1989 crash at Imola. Which I swear is where my fear of burning to death comes from. Now, that ended happily, or at least only with minor injuries, but the main reason I don’t like the idea of having fighter jet-style canopies is what happens if they fail to release.

The other problem with a full canopy is how it would be cleaned as it got dirty. If the driver is fully sealed, he can’t just rip off a tear-off strip the way you can with helmets. Sure, the mechanics could do it during a pit stop. But what if it got dirty in-between times, or if the car in front sprayed oil all over the canopy because of a mechanical failure?

I suspect these problems, or something similar, are the reason why the FIA and the teams haven’t even tried anything like a full, sealed canopy.

With a “shield”, there aren’t the same problems. The driver can get out, and I presume tear-offs can be made for them. On the other hand, objects can still bounce off and in, and something could go over and in to the cockpit. I don’t think that you’re ever going to be able to make any motorsport 100% safe, but I think the shield is probably the best option. It mixes increasing safety without introducing different risks or just leaving things as is of the solutions so far put forward.

I don’t get what the halo is supposed to do. I’m sure I’m missing something, and I’m sure someone with more engineering know-how can explain it to me. It seems to offer very little extra protection while reducing the driver’s field of vision. I don’t think the central column visibility issues will be as bad as it looks (see also how quickly you can get used to seeing through mesh in a fencing mask). However, I’ve no idea how it’s supposed to prevent objects entering the cockpit. It seems to only be capable of preventing things if they’re on a trajectory that crosses over the halo pillars and bars.

The FIA have gone with the halo over the shield. I’m sure they have their reasons. I’m sure they are good reasons. It would be nice to know what those reasons are because from the outside, it looks like a ridiculous decision.

Mama Do – Why motherhood doesn’t have to be the end of Serena Williams’s career

The minute Serena Williams announced that she was pregnant, various journalists dusted down their “is this the end of (famous sportswoman)’s career” articles.

This is annoying for a variety of reasons.

The first is that it really is always the same article, with just the name of the sportswoman and the sport changed.

The second is that, if Serena chooses to come back, it’s not the end of her career. Sportswomen can, do and have achieved after having children. For instance, <a href=”http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/olympics/rio-2016-jessica-ennis-hill-takes-silver-in-thrilling-conclusion-to-womens-heptathlon-a7189731.html”>Olympic silver</a> in the heptathlon, generally regarded as the most physically demanding of the athletics disciplines. Or you know, being <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanny_Blankers-Koen”>the Flying Housewife</a>.

But I suppose they don’t play tennis. Like oh, Kim Clijsters, who won the US Open after giving birth, and she’s not the physical force that Serena is.

Those are sport or related reasons. The remainder of the reasons are more society based.
The social construct of “the perfect mother” appears to exist only to make all mothers feel bad. (Any mothers reading this, you are amazing.) The perfect mother, she does not and cannot exist.

More than that, the extreme self-sacrifice that this ridiculous construct demands, that a mother no longer has her own life outside that of the identity of mother isn’t safe or healthy for the mother, her children or any attendant partners.

Reporters and journalists are intelligent people and shouldn’t be buying into it or propagating it.

There’s also this weird idea that Serena (or any other woman) will be so overcome by the awesomeness of having a child that she will not be interested in pursuing her career. I don’t have children, but my mother would like to tell you that this is nonsense. I have her permission to quote her.

The interesting double standard is that it’s assumed that no man would be so distracted by having children that he’d want to stop his career. There’s no “will Murray stop playing tennis now that there’s a second mini Murray on the way?” articles. If kids are so all-consumingly awesome, you’d think both parents would be affected.

Every woman’s choice is different, and it is her choice.

I realise journalists have to fill up the column inches so how to earn their pay. Maybe next time though write about a British (change nationality as applicable) junior that’s doing good rather than digging out the old “is this the end of (famous sportswoman)’s career” article again.