Tuesday, May 04, 2004

A proper post at last

As promised, a post covering all the topics listed in the post below - though the 'orrible virus is still with me, I seem to have a bit more brain power, so long as I don't have to concentrate too hard.

~Why Snooker is Great~

Ah, Ronnie. Didn't you do well. This years World Championships had a touch of the anti-climax about them after the excitment of earlier rounds. However, it has to be said that the Essex Exocet as the MC kept calling him (not sure what it means!) was absolutely knock you down kick you in the teeth fantastic. He beat the greatest player in history 17-4 in the semi final, and he did it without resorting to name calling or other such shenanigans, but rather by playing composed snooker that was artful, and also, crucially, craftful. His control of the cue ball and his shot selection were awesome, and his complete dominance of the field meant he ran out a thoroughly deserving winner. Graeme Dott (my goodness me that's a lot of pictures of Graeme Dott!) was a revelation in the semis and the quarters, and indeed in the first session of the final, but in the end his apparently granite tough composure was fractured by the sheer size of Ronnie's snookery genius. The fact that only a few months ago, Dott snapped his cue at a motorway service station in frustration at his poor form only makes the size of his achievement more impressive.

I love snooker. It's an incredible game. It's like chess, only with sticks and balls and a table. The essence of snooker at the highest levels is the mental battle that takes place between two people who are essentially both capable of beating each other. The winner is generally the one who best deals with the fact that their subconcious (which is in charge of their ability to play the shots their concious mind wants them to play) is being bombarded by the pressure of the situation. This years championships were slightly different, in that O'Sullivan was a class above the field in terms of ability, but normally the abiltiy levels are similar, and it is mental tenacity and composure that wins games.

There is also something incredibly beautful to me about the applied physics of the game, the controlled environment in which spinning balls collide with each other in a way which is either very controlled and precise, or chaotic and apparently random. The sounds are very satisfying when the contacts are smooth and the pots are true. The levels of application required to become a master of the game are mind boggling - the hours spent in smokey and dimly lit snooker halls mean it is little wonder the sight of a glowing and healthy looking snooker player is a rare one. But I could watch them pot those balls all day (in fact, for the last week I have been). I can't play to save my life sadly!

~Why Muppets from Space is a great movie~

No, seriously, I mean it, it's fab! I watched it when it was first released in the cinema, during the height of my "hey the muppets are cool, surely that's about acid" phase and was slightly disappointed. Not that there weren't scenes you could point to and say "hey the muppets are cool, surely that's about acid" - Gonzo and the cosmic space fish anyone? But much more than that there are some really great sequences and some very interesting themes explored in Muppets from Space. My favourite sequence by far is the opening, with all the muppets getting ready in the morning (fighting over the bathroom, having breakfast etc.) This leads in to the exploration of the central theme of the movie, Gonzo's existential angst about being alone in the universe. His lonliness drives him to the edge of madness, and it is only the arrival of his family from outer space that saves him from this bleak mental oblivion. Gonzo's always been a bit of a self-harmer, always first in line to be shot out of a cannon, and muppets from space is the first time that some of the roots of his psychosis are investigated. It's the first time that it's not good enough to describe him as a "whatever." There are some great supporting performances from the guest stars and some really really top notch comedy writing. If you like the Muppets and passed over "from Space" the first time, check it out again!

~Why Lenny, the 1974 Lenny Bruce biopic starring Dustin Hoffman, is a really properly great movie~

The Lenny Bruce story is really really moving. He was a pioneering stand up comedian who was basically driven to his death by being constantly busted for obsenity and possesion. Most of the links here will contain v. strong language as a result of this btw. If you've never come across him and you have any interest at all in the history of stand up comedy and aren't put off by "adult" themes, check him out. The film is a great place to start, Dustin Hoffman is remarkable as Bruce, I mean absolutely remarkable - Hoffman is a famously methody actor, so it's no surprise that he gets the character so perfect, but it was a breathtakingly accurate portrayal. Valerie Perrine as Honey Bruce, Lenny's wife and Jan Miner as his mother also give really really compelling performances. The film's structure is based around a series of interviews, with Honey, and Lenny's mother and agent, intercut with performances and traditional story telling. I could ramble on about how wonderfully it is directed and how the dialogue is superb and how it darn near made me cry at the end, but I won't. I'll end this section with a link to this somewhat heartening story - I would imagine this would mean a tremendous amount to his family, and the people that loved him.


Leeds have gone down, perhaps fatally, Wolves haven't managed to avoid the drop, United are, tragically, rubbish and are gonna struggle to beat Milwall and Arsenal may very well go the whole season unbeaten. The only good news is that West Brom are back up, Birmingham might finish in the top ten for only the eighth time ever (is anyone else surprised by that stat) and Villa might get into Europe! Come on you West Midlands footballing revival!

~The Is This a Good Idea Referendum Result~

An honourable draw! Phill started the ball rolling, in order to stir up some controvers. This worked admirably, as there have been several minor flamings in the comments. The votes, when counted, come out at 4 all, but the reasons for and against stack up somewhat in the no campaign's favour. So, no new career for me in politics just yet - I'll join the party if Tom gets either PM, Home secretary or Foreign Minister though...Thanks to all those who voted, and it's been lovely to have a wider range of readers!

Right, all that's left me a bit exhausted, going to curl up on the sofa and try not to feel sorry for myself now ;-)