Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Tyranny of the Professionally Offended

(Pic : Flame Warriors)

There are some things worth getting hot under the collar about : prejudice that actively disadvantages people, vulgar displays of wealth, nepotism, waste, corruption, abuse etc.

However, many people and institutions out there who've turned being offended and outraged into an art form, including :
  • The Daily Mail, Daily Express and Western Mail.
  • Anyone who reads the above and leaves comments/writes letters.
  • The Taxpayers Alliance.
  • Anyone who says "elf 'n' safety" and/or "political correctness gone mad."
  • "Professional activists" who argue over petty things.
  • People who blame victims.
  • Football supporters.
  • Social conservatives who are outraged that they can't force their beliefs on others.
  • Social liberals who are outraged on behalf of groups who didn't ask them to be.
  • Anyone who complains about something without having seen/heard/understood it.
  • People from niche groups who get offended that you haven't taken their thoughts into consideration (Church groups, Save the X, fandoms etc).
  • People who are offended at people not being offended ("Where were you all when X did Y to Z!!?!").
  • People who are offended by people getting offended – just so I'm not accused of hypocrisy.

All of us probably fall into one of those categories. It's the modern tyranny where we censor each other (and ourselves) by making out that we're constantly insulted or insulting someone.

I was surprised that 110 people complained about Red Bull's latest advert, where it's implied that Red Bull could've saved lives on the Titanic because, as you probably all know, "Red Bull gives you wings." It's been decried as "insensitive" and "taking advantage of tragedy".

The Titanic disaster happened 101 years ago. The survivors are dead and living immediate relatives would be grandchildren in their 80s at their youngest I'd expect. I think that's a long enough time to let things go. It was a terrible disaster, but we know what caused it, and it was on nowhere near the same scale as other disasters or outrages of the 20th Century.

Before people complain about something, it's best to take a deep breath, put it in perspective, then decide precisely why you're offended and if it's worth the effort of complaining so you don't make an arse of yourself.

Speaking of arses....

Y Farteg – Drive carefully, don't leave skidmarks!

The Farteg row - a load of guff?
(Pic : Wales News Service via BBC Wales)
The hamlet of Varteg on the outskirts of Abersychan in Torfaen (pronounced Var-tairg) could be name-changed to Y Farteg (pronounced Eh Var-tairg). This immediately prompted OUTRAGE at the DISGRACEFUL decision because it contains the word FART and somebody could mock the hamlet by calling it FART EGG.

What dirty minds they have, reflecting their own immaturity.

If some 7-year old hasn't already discovered that changing a V to and F creates the word "fart", then you've got to question the insult training youngsters are receiving in our schools.

A fart egg, AFAIK, means a very small chicken's egg. I suppose it could be interpreted as an ordinary fart that brought unwelcome guests with it on the way out too.

It's probably worth asking the people of Cwm Farteg in Bryn and Tan-y-Farteg in Ystradgynlais what they think. It could be worse. For example, Fucking in Austria (there's a documentary title for you) or Mong Kok in Hong Kong.

Place names shouldn't be reduced to their phonetic pronunciation in English. I wouldn't want to live in Brijend (which looks Dutch), while in a Bridgend accent, Porthcawl is sometimes pronounced "Poofcall".

Then there's the perennial debate on whether Pencoed is "Pen-cord" (Wenglish), "Pen-coyd" (the correct Welsh pronunciation) or "Pen-code" (Anglicised).

While we're at it, why not change Merthyr to "M
öffer" to attract German tourists?

There's no "v" in the Welsh alphabet, with "f" used in its place. "Varteg" is neither English or Welsh, just wrong. 

Of course, nobody's going to thank the powers that be for correcting this spelling error. They're going to whittle off angry letters to the usual suspects.

Whenever I have to refer to Varteg/Y Farteg from now on, I'm going to do the right thing and call it Fart Egg. It's what residents want, having planted the seed in people's minds and generating all this publicity through their complaints.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Rise of Rambo

It's said whenever Aaron Ramsey scores, someone famous dies.
It looks like a lot of famous people are going to die.
(Pic : hereisthecity.com)

Arsenal and Wales' Aaron Ramsey is the form man at the moment, and should be nailed-on for September's Premier League Player of the Month. It's fitting that he scored again today against Stoke – which would've been sweet for a whole host of reasons.

I was excited when the Arsenal first signed Ramsey, as not only had the club got one over Man United – who triumphantly announced they signed him just before Arsenal confirmed that if fact they had – but I was familiar with him from his Cardiff City days and knew he was a special talent.

Aaron endured a tough time from Arsenal fans in the first half of last season. He was being played out of position in order to cover injuries in the squad and it showed. I feared he would've been sold or loaned out in January.

In the second half of last season though, something changed. He knuckled down and whenever he gave the ball away he was eager to chase it down and get it back. Playing alongside experienced midfielders like Mikel Arteta must've helped too. Something clicked this pre-season and he's since taken that form into the Premier League.

Aaron's rapidly developing into the "box to box" midfielder who isn't afraid to shoot from distance – similar to Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard - that Arsenal have missed. The club were linked with Lars Bender over the summer, and I think had they signed him, that might've been it for Aaron. I'll bet Arsene Wenger's glad he saved some money in the end. Heh.

It's early days, of course, and he still lacks the technique that's the difference between a good player and a great player. Hopefully Mesut Özil can show him a thing or two there. There'll also be debate on who has the greater potential between Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere – I think Aaron clearly does at the moment.

One of the big problems with the Welsh national team is that while Wales produces several international - sometimes world - class players, they never come through at the same time. The closest Wales have come to that in recent memory was the 1994 World Cup qualifying campaign and being cheated out of Euro 2004 by Russia.

The core of a good team is there – Ben Davies and Ashley Williams from Swansea, Gareth Bale and Ramsey (you could probably add Joe Allen to that too) in midfield. The only thing the national team are lacking are a consistent goalkeeper and top-level striker (Craig Bellamy is nearing international retirement).

The 2014 World Cup is a write-off, but with the European Championships expanding to 24 nations - and depending on the kindness of the qualifying draw next February - 2016 could be the best chance for Wales to qualify for a major tournament since forever.

And who better to lead us there?

Monday, 16 September 2013

Someone really hates Paul Verhoeven

                          


The trailer for the rebooted Robocop – due out next year – was released a few weeks ago (above).

I'm doubtful about the value of a Robocop remake, but if I'm completely honest my first reaction was, "That doesn't look too bad" or, if I'm not feeling so kind, "It could've been worse."

The original "True Robocop" could easily be written off as a dumb, excessively bloody sci-fi action film that was as ludicrous a concept as it was executed. Behind the scenes stories tell of the sheer hell it took to get the film out. It was behind schedule, filmed in roasting temperatures and, by all accounts, the crew and cast didn't get on with each other.

What they created was a masterpiece satire of Reagan's America with more layers than an onion, exploring the concepts of free will, the fascism and greed of American capitalism, good versus evil (including plenty of Christ allusions), the decay of post-industrial America and the ethics of technology in relation to human mortality and identity.

Nothing displays that better than when Robocop returns "home", long abandoned by his/its widow and son, with memories confusing him/it to such an extent that he/it doesn't know what he/it is.

Then Robocop pulls a constipated face and punches a TV screen, but that's beside the point.

Although the sequels and TV series spin-off were less than perfect (though I don't think they were as bad as people make out), Robocop stands the test of time by being unashamedly of the 1980s. It doesn't need to be "brought back for a new audience" because that guts what it was.

Major film studios are under pressure to pump out films that paying members of the public are going to be guaranteed to like. There's value in investing big sums of money in flashy special effects because it usually pays for itself with bums on seats.

It's impossible to judge a film by its trailer alone, and no doubt some of the key elements of "True Robocop" will make their way into the reboot. So, I don't blame the cast or directors for this at all - that would be pointless.

I blame the studios for pressing ahead with remakes which are usually inferior to the originals, instead of coming up with fresh ideas that reflect modern times – as Robocop once did.

As for Robocop director Paul Verhoeven, this is the latest of his films to be remade, perhaps undermining his unique style of dark humour mixed with cartoonish violence and satire. He gave audiences what they they thought they wanted while laughing at them too.

We've already had the completely unnecessary remake of another of his classics - Total Recall. Now Robocop. I wonder how long until Starship Troopers gets mooted for a rema....

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Thë Gërmäns äre cömïng!

A Turk, a Pole and a giant walk into a football club....
(Pic : waz-online.de)

The transfer window has slammed shut, trapping afros in some, hands in others. What's been an atrocious few months on the Arsenal transfer front ended with the signing of goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano on loan – love at first sight, as demonstrated by this video – and the little matter of Arsenal signing one of the world's best midfielders, Mesut Özil.

There were rumours towards the end of last week, but the only concrete link emerged after the Tottenham win. I thought it would be one of these "missed opportunities", and nailed on that Özil would end up at Man United. I expected Arsenal to sign Yohan Cabaye for £15m-ish and maybe bring in a back-up striker on loan, as attempted with Demba Ba.

Arsenal didn't smash their transfer record. They blew it off its hinges with shotguns, shelling out close to £43million, making Özil – I understand - the most expensive German transfer of all time.

Deals for that sort of money don't happen over the course of a few hours on a single day, despite the Sky Sports and BBC hype. That makes me think this was planned in advance - probably weeks ago - and dependent on both Arsenal reaching the Champions League group stages and Gareth Bale's move to Real Madrid.

Spurs really are the gift that keeps on giving.

There's a reason he cost so much too – he's brilliant. He doesn't score many goals, granted, but in terms of creativity and assists, Özil's up there with the best of them. There's a reason Real Madrid fans didn't want to sell him.

It's also very prudent in the merchandising side of things, as Arsenal can charge extra for the Ö umlaut. Probably.

Arsenal are developing a very solid Teutonic core : Mertesacker, Podolski and now Özil. In the "promising youngster" category they have Serge Gnabry, Thomas Eisfeld and wunderkind Gedion Zelalem. That's two generations of German players coming through at the same club just as German football goes on the ascendancy again.

I want to see them all lined up playing calculators in black and red suits and perhaps a name change from Arsenal to Zeughaus London is appropriate.

Özil, Cazorla, Walcott, Ramsey, Wilshere, Arteta, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Flamini.... That's one of the strongest midfields in the Premier League. The quality in this team is there without question. The Aston Villa game aside, the performances have been encouraging so far.

However, I still believe Arsenal are short of an established world class striker (despite Olivier Giroud's excellent start to the season) and proper defensive midfield cover – though Mathieu Flamini proved on Sunday he could fill that role, so I'm not too worried there.

It's typical Arsenal to be one or two players away from greatness. However, I don't think Arsenal need shell out like this every single transfer window - and Arsene Wenger's broader fiscal prudence is sensible - but what a statement of intent!

It's a strange feeling. I'm excited the Arsenal have joined the "big" big boys, off our own backs and not dependent on burning hydrocarbons or impoverished serfs in eastern Russia and the Middle East. I'm also terrified that the team are still one or two injuries away from a front line led by Yaya Sanogo or Nicklas Bendtner.

A few weeks back, when it looked like Gonzalo Higuain's move was "nailed on", I said that he would be the first established world-class signing by Arsenal since Dennis Bergkamp. Wrong name, but it happened eventually . This is a "Bergkamp moment" for a new generation of Arsenal fans....and a second for the older ones.

We've got Mesut Özil!
We've got Mesut Özil!
Na na na na!
Na na na na!

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