Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Gears of War (the brilliant ad)

This song, Mad World, originally sung by Tears for Fears, was re-recorded by Michael Andrews and appeared on the soundtrack to the brilliant Donnie Darko. When the song appeared again on this ad for the video game, Gears of War for the Xbox 360, it became one of the top selling singles on iTunes.

Gears of War (The brilliant spoof)

Wilhelm Scream

In 1951, a sound designer on a Gary Cooper western called Distant Drums needed to overdub a scream onto a scene in which a man is killed by an alligator. He brought a contract actor into his studio and rolled tape as the man did six brief, anguished screams in one take. These screams were then added to the Warner Brothers sound library, and over the next couple of decades they found their way into dozens of Warner Brothers films.

In the mid-'70s, a young sound designer named Ben Burtt gave these sounds a name: "the Wilhelm scream," after a character in one of the earliest films that utilized the sounds. A couple of years later, Burtt was hired to work on a film called Star Wars. As an homage, he overdubbed the scream onto a scene in that film. Then he overdubbed it onto a scene in The Empire Strikes Back. And Return of the Jedi. A fellow Lucasfilm sound designer began using the Wilhelm too, in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, among other movies. And thus a film-geek in-joke was born. In the last 30 years the Wilhelm has been used winkingly in dozens of movies and TV shows, from Reservoir Dogs and The X-Files to Aladdin and Return of the King.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Salvaging Bush's Mideast disaster

The real "front line of the war on terror" is Palestine. By brokering a lasting peace, the U.S. can make up for Bush's colossal blunders.

By Gary Kamiya

Nov. 28, 2006 | This weekend, Israel and the Palestinians announced a cease-fire, ending the bloody low-level conflict that has been raging for months and momentarily returning the world's attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The cessation of violence in the Gaza Strip, where about 400 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed, is a welcome humanitarian development. But any long-term hopes it gives rise to are likely to be cruelly dashed. It addresses none of the underlying issues, and in fact only strengthens rejectionist elements on both sides. Unless the Bush administration moves to broker a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace, the cease-fire will prove to be yet another temporary lull, and the conflict will worsen, with dire ramifications for the United States.

As the Iraqi debacle lurches from dreadful to nightmarish, with 140,000 U.S. troops caught in a vicious purgatory, it is all too easy to forget that the real "front line of the war on terror" is in Jerusalem, not Baghdad. The Israeli-Palestinian crisis is not a matter that America wants to deal with. There is zero debate about it in Congress, where unswerving support for Israel continues to be the only thing that Democrats and Republicans agree on. It divides the left. It is such an emotional, sensitive issue that most people don't even bring it up. And it's easy to simply dismiss it as intractable.

But like it or not, the fact remains that the now 39-year-long Israeli occupation of Palestinian land continues to be the most incendiary issue in the Arab-Muslim world, the single thing that most inspires hatred of the U.S. A U.N.-sponsored group recently found that tensions between Islam and the West are caused not by religion but overwhelmingly by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has acquired a symbolic significance larger than itself. The conflict affects virtually every problem in the region, including Iraq -- a fact recognized by world leaders from British Prime Minister Tony Blair to Jordan's King Abdullah to the leaders of France, Spain and Italy, who just presented their own peace plan. Until the U.S. brokers a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians -- and only America can do it -- we will stumble impotently around in the Middle East, despised by all except the corrupt despots we prop up, while the anti-American rage that breeds jihadists grows.

The Israeli-Palestinian crisis has long been the elephant in the room of Bush's entire Mideast policy, a subject too fraught to bring up. It is incorrect to say, as some on the left have done, that Bush's Iraq war was fought "for Israel." But it is true that the war was dreamed up by strongly pro-Israel officials and ideologues and that Israel's interests were a significant factor in their decisions. And in a larger sense, the ideology behind Iraq, and Bush's entire "war on terror," is identical to Israel's "iron wall" approach to its Arab enemies -- a fact that has gone largely unremarked upon in the United States.

Which makes it a matter of considerable historical irony that America now has an opportunity to break through the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock. Precisely because Bush's neoconservative policies have seriously weakened the United States, forced it to pay dearly in blood and treasure, and entangled it in the region like never before, they have opened a window of opportunity on the Israeli-Palestinian front. The pro-Likud hawks from the American Enterprise Institute who brainstormed the Iraq war, as Bob Woodward describes in his new book, surely never dreamed that a war-on-terror strategy right out of the Likud playbook could end up leading the U.S. to make moves on Palestine that under "normal" circumstances it never would -- moves that could save Israel from itself, bring justice to the Palestinians, undercut the growing strength of hybrid resistance/Islamist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and allow moderate Arab regimes to begin to reform.

The solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as former President Jimmy Carter argues in his important new book, "Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid," is well known by the parties on both sides, and has been for years. Its key elements are shared, with some variations, by a number of peace plans: the so-called Geneva Initiative, the new European peace plan, and the Saudi peace plan of 2002, which was approved by the Arab League. Those elements can be quickly listed: a two-state solution based on full Israeli withdrawal to its internationally recognized 1967 borders and dismantling of the settlements, with any land swaps to be mutually negotiated. Jerusalem would be the shared capital of both states. A limited number of Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to Israel, with the majority being paid compensation and resettled elsewhere. All Arab countries, and the new Palestinian state, would recognize Israel and renounce violence against it.

Under Bill Clinton's vigorous leadership at Camp David, and later at Taba, the U.S. came close to brokering such a deal. Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak were still negotiating at Taba in January 2001 when Barak, facing elections, suspended the talks. As Carter argues, and Clayton Swisher documents in his thorough study, "The Truth About Camp David," the standard U.S.-Israeli line that Yasser Arafat turned down Barak's "generous offer" and is thus wholly to blame for the collapse of the talks is simply false. Swisher argues that the U.S. and Israel were largely to blame for the fact that the talks were ill-prepared and mutual trust was not established. But even if one puts some of the blame on Arafat for making the perfect the enemy of the good, and holding out for a better deal, as does former Israeli Foreign Minister and peace-talks negotiator Shlomo Ben-Ami (who is broadly sympathetic to the Palestinians and opposed to Israeli colonization of the occupied territories), the basic lineaments of a peace deal remain the same. If peace talks fail the first time, the answer is not to cut off negotiations and continue building settlements, but to try again.

Unfortunately, following the collapse of the Camp David-Taba talks, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took his customary hard line, continuing to build settlements and framing all of his policies, like his ideological soul mate George W. Bush, in terms of "a war on terror." And Bush gave Sharon a green light to do what he wanted. Just 10 days after his inauguration, Bush announced that he was going to break with Bill Clinton's approach to the Middle East and give Sharon a free hand to deal with the Palestinians. In words that sum up the ideology behind his later Iraq adventure, he told his National Security Council, according to Ron Suskind's "The Price of Loyalty," "Sometimes a show of strength by one side can really clarify things."

The results of Sharon and Bush's "show of strength," in Baghdad and in the occupied territories, are now in. Of Baghdad, nothing need be said. Of Palestine, suffice it to say that an already catastrophic situation has grown still worse. Israel has continued to build settlements -- which a recent Israeli governmental report reveals were mostly on privately owned Palestinian land seized by Israel -- and construct a security wall, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice because it carves off large chunks of Palestinian land. Before his incapacitating stroke, Sharon pulled unilaterally out of Gaza, an action that helped preserve Israel's Jewish demography but left Gaza, whose borders Israel still controls, a vast open-air prison, and did nothing to address the underlying political issues. For their part, the desperate Palestinians started a second, more violent intifada, using terrorist attacks and Qassam missile strikes, which have only hardened Israel's position. And the election of the militant Islamist group Hamas, whose charter denies Israel's right to exist and calls for its destruction, has led Israel and the West to cut off all aid, slowly starving the Palestinians and further radicalizing them.

The situation is untenable, and the incremental approach, enshrined in the Oslo peace process and the so-called, de facto defunct road map, has utterly failed. Only an immediate move to final-status issues can cut through this bloody stalemate, and prevent the rejectionists on both sides from growing even stronger. The current cease-fire, as the Israeli analyst Akiva Eldar argues in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, actually rewards both Hamas and the Israeli right wing, neither of whom is forced to pay a price for its continuing intransigence. In effect, it is simply a momentary upward blip in the same failed approach.

Eldar, and Ben-Ami, argue that what Israel needs to do is seize upon one of the viable peace plans on the table -- whether the European, the Saudi or the Clinton parameters -- and take proactive steps to solve the problem once and for all. "When the sole alternative to temporary arrangements and unilateral steps is the perpetuation of violence, temporary arrangements and unilateral steps become indispensable," Eldar argues. "However, when an alternative offering all-encompassing peace in the Middle East is within arm's reach -- and includes normalization between Israel and the members of the Arab League -- a hudna [the long-term truce offered by Hamas, which would not affect its rejectionist charter] is criminal, if not downright stupid. This alternative is written, in black on white, in Arabic, in an unprecedented resolution passed at the League summit on March 28, 2002 in Beirut."

Without U.S. pressure, there is no chance that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's weak administration will take this bold move. Hitherto, neither the Bush administration nor the Democrats has shown any interest in pressuring Israel to do anything. But the current situation holds out an opportunity for the United States, if it has sufficient wisdom and political courage, to move forward on a grand Mideast strategy that would not only resolve the most dangerous problem in the world, but help America extricate itself from Iraq, defuse tensions with Iran and Syria, and save Lebanon from teetering over the brink into civil war.

Middle East politics is a complex and tangled ball, but when you pull on virtually any strand, you discover it is connected to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Solving that crisis has always been in our long-term self-interest. But because America is now enmeshed in the Middle East, the self-interest is more urgent.

Outside of Iraq, a problem we chose to create, almost every problem America faces in the Middle East ultimately has all or some of its roots in Palestine. Hezbollah exists because of Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, whose purpose was to destroy the PLO. Iran's anti-Israel ideology draws most of its venom from anger over the Palestinians. Syria's rejectionism stems from the Palestinian issue and Israel's refusal to return the Golan Heights. The growth of radical Islam throughout the region, and the increasing weakness of the moderate Sunni states, is in large part a result of rage at Israel and its patron America. As Shiite expert and regular Salon contributor Juan Cole has pointed out, Osama bin Laden was inspired to plan the destruction of the World Trade Center after seeing the "destroyed towers in Lebanon" smashed by Israeli bombs.

Under normal circumstances, the U.S. could -- and almost always has -- simply ignored these inconvenient truths. But thanks to Bush's Iraq war, these are no longer normal circumstances. Everywhere Bush turns, as he tries to salvage something from the ruins of his Mideast policy, he runs up against the Palestinian issue. The most significant example is James Baker's Iraq Study Group, which will reportedly urge him to talk to Syria and Iran -- a prospect that has right-wing supporters of Israel in a state of near panic. But Palestine also holds the key to the future of Lebanon. Bush's neoconservative brain trust is urging him to maintain his hard line against Syria and Hezbollah. But as Israel's recent, unsuccessful war shows, the Shiites in Lebanon are too powerful to smash into submission. The only long-term solution to Lebanon's woes, as former ABC News chief Middle East correspondent Charles Glass, who was kidnapped by Hezbollah in 1987, recently argued, is to remove Hezbollah's raison d'être by providing justice for the Palestinians.

Will the Bush administration yield to geopolitical reality, and pressure Israel to take the necessary steps to make peace? Not likely. Although brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan would help resolve every problem the U.S. has in the region, America could still stumble on without one. Even though it is bloodied and desperately searching for a way out of Iraq, the Bush administration is deeply committed to its neoconservative approach to the Middle East, and few expect it to perform a humiliating 180-degree reversal. "I don't think we should expect a revolution in the administration," former special Middle East envoy Dennis Ross told Bloomberg News. "They are six years in power. There is a certain set of attitudes. There is a certain approach."

If Bush stays on his current course, he will opt to pay lip service to Baker but largely ignore his group's recommendations. He will keep the heat on Syria and Iran, put no pressure on Olmert, and, after a failed attempt to stabilize Iraq by increasing troop levels, begin to draw down U.S. troops next spring or summer -- in effect, maintaining his current Middle East policy, with the one change being the removal of troops from Iraq.

This is probably what will happen -- and if it does, it will be a disaster. As the neocons argued after 9/11 in support of their Iraq adventure, the status quo is no longer acceptable. With America's standing in the Middle East at an all-time low, simply bailing out of Iraq, without trying to dramatically improve our ruined regional position, and maintaining our support for Fortress Israel, would be folly. Fundamentalist Islam and jihadi rage will grow, moderate regimes will weaken, the danger of regional conflagration will increase, and hatred between Israelis and Palestinians will become ever more toxic.

The key is the newly empowered Democrats. But to overturn Bush's neoconservative Middle East policy, the Democrats would have to think strategically, put America's long-term interests first, and break with Bush on the one area where they robotically agree with him: Israel.

There is no precedent for the Democrats' doing this. But then, there is no precedent for our current dire situation -- which is why there is a ray of hope. The unilateral, force-based Bush approach is dead, killed in the bloody streets of Iraq and the cluster-bomb-strewn fields of Lebanon. Having enraged and radicalized Arab populations across the region, and with Iraq melting down into a failed-state breeding ground of jihadis, neither the U.S. nor Israel can win by using the blunt instrument of force anymore. If the Democrats recognize this, and pressure Bush to broker a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians -- or if they can restrain themselves from attacking him if he miraculously tries to do it himself -- something could yet be salvaged from the worst foreign policy debacle in U.S. history.

This article appeared in

"All These Things That I've Done"

When there's nowhere else to run
Is there room for one more son
One more son
If you can hold on
If you can hold on, hold on
I wanna stand up, I wanna let go
You know, you know - no you don't, you don't
I wanna shine on in the hearts of men
I wanna mean it from the back of my broken hand

Another head aches, another heart breaks
I am so much older than I can take
And my affection, well it comes and goes
I need direction to perfection, no no no no

Help me out
Yeah, you know you got to help me out
Yeah, oh don't you put me on the back burner
You know you got to help me out

And when there's nowhere else to run
Is there room for one more son
These changes ain't changing me
The gold-hearted boy I used to be

Yeah, you know you got to help me out
Yeah, oh don't you put me on the back burner
You know you got to help me out
You're gonna bring yourself down
Yeah, you're gonna bring yourself down
Yeah, you're gonna bring yourself down

I got soul, but I'm not a soldier
I got soul, but I'm not a soldier

Yeah, you know you got to help me out
Yeah, oh don't you put me on the back burner
You know you got to help me out
You're gonna bring yourself down
You're gonna bring yourself down
Yeah, oh don't you put me on the back burner
You're gonna bring yourself down
Yeah, you're gonna bring yourself down

Over and in, last call for sin
While everyone's lost, the battle is won
With all these things that I've done
All these things that I've done
If you can hold on
If you can hold on

Monday, November 27, 2006


The Superficial says she looks like a "soul-harvester"..

It's hard being a (nation of) Muslim

An African-American co-worker approached me (in the men's room, of all places) and asked me if I was Muslim. I said that I was, but I was a little reticent about it. Firstly, I'm not very religious; secondly, I don't bond with people on religion; thirdly, the last thing I needed was to have someone at work hold me to a standard to which I very loosely adhere. Finally, I had a nagging suspicion that while we were both Muslims, he was Nation of Islam and I'm just plain old Sunni.

This would have been a very awkward conversation, explaining to him that I didn't believe a space ship was orbiting around earth waiting to rescue all the brothers nor did I think I could ever work a bowtie into my 'look'.

My fears were unfounded; he was very nice and very pleasant. He seemed interested in the fact that I was a Muslim from the Arab world and he didn't attempt to test my faith or talk politics. His pleasant demeanour will make my attempts to distance myself from him that much harder. I mean, what if he chastises me for not eating Halal meat? I even have a problem with my own use of the word 'chastise'. The reason I left Egypt is so that people would stop chastising me. Also, if he invites me to 'break bread' with him, I'll have an even bigger problem. I like eating alone.

He'll doubtless construe this as religious snobbery. I may inadvertently stir up some ethnic strife up in this bitch as a result of this culinary snub. He may inform his friends who will doubtless waylay me and end up pelting me with bowties. If I'm lucky.

Little House walks the 90210 Line

Did you know that Shannon Doherty was a semi-regular on Little House on the Prairie? Did you also know that Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash also starred in one episode of the show?

Spanish Football Commentators

Spain has its own particular rules and rituals when it comes to sports commentary in general, and at times they are so idiosyncratic that they leave a foreigner baffled. For example, people sit for hours gawping at the telly during the Tour de France every summer, commenting on the commentary. What the guy on the box says seems to be of more importance than what is actually happening - which is unsurprising, given the nature of the sport. If you don't understand it, nothing ever seems to be happening.

The world of basketball commentary - a huge sport here in Spain, is also prone to expert analysis from the public sidelines. English cricket can leave people similarly baffled with its statistical overload, but there is nothing (on the surface at least) baffling about football.

Some of my fondest memories of Spanish football have involved long drives through dark Sunday nights, through the half-empty motorways of Spain, listening to OndaCero, Radio Marca or any other national radio station that floats across the ether and down through the car aerial to wake you from your silence. The Spanish give good radio in general, and their ability to create a 'tertulia' (chat) from nothing never ceases to amaze.

There are usually three commentators watching the same game, but they rarely provide a blow-by-blow account. That's too mundane. A fair percentage of the time is spent discussing what they had for tea, the weather, what they're having for supper and what the barman was telling them last week when they dropped in for a vino.

They even argue, in that special Spanish way that seems to be mutually insulting but which is really just a show of masculine matiness. Your Spanish has to be pretty decent to understand, and even when you can cope with the language you then have to cope with the historical references, the slang, the nicknames. But it's very relaxed, and it works.

What La Sexta have seemed to have overlooked is that the 22.00 match is on the television. The obvious idea has been to try out the radio genre on the TV, but it doesn't quite come off. Saturday night at home means that I can watch this game then switch digi-boxes to BBC's Match of the Day. Nothing could create a greater contrast.

The MC for La Sexta, Andrés Montes, has been plucked from Canal Plus and the world of basketball. He'd built up a large fan base with his eccentric style, but at least he knew something about the game. Despite his obvious lack of knowledge about football, he's seen as the man to endorse his new station's national image. So he heads the live match team, aided and abetted by Barça's ex forward, Julio Salinas, and ex-Atlético Madrid and Cádiz forward Kiko.

Kiko used to be funny when he was a player, largely due to his incomprehensible Andaluz accent. Now he thinks he's supposed to be a serious commentator, and like Ian Wright on the BBC, has absolutely nothing to say of any interest whatsoever. But he's fairly decent on the banter. Salinas laughs constantly at his own jokes but is likeable, in a Salinas kind of way. These things are important. They can make or break a Saturday night, and they can condition the way that you view La Liga - if it becomes your main source of non-live viewing.

During Saturday's game, Montes' obvious ignorance of the Sociedad line-up was only slightly less bizarre than his occasional sloganeering: 'Enz La Sexta...fútbol con fatatas!' I know what 'patatas' are (chips) but not 'fatatas'. Answers on a postcard please.

At one point, clearly unable to say anything of any consequence about the game, Montes asked Salinas 'Has merenda'o tío?' (Have you had your tea mate?). Salinas replied 'La mujer no me he dejado' (The wife wouldn't let me), to howls of laughter around the studio. Not quite the BBC.

Then Gari Uranga scored for Sociedad, and Montes was suddenly in his element.

'Ah! Robinson Crusoe has scored!' he screamed. 'I like this kid. He was at Getafe a few years ago. We chewed the fat a few times. Good lad. I must go up to San Sebastian some time and have a few glasses of wine with him'. But at least he recognised Uranga. Throughout the game he mixed up Ansotegi with Juanito, and Juanito with Garitano. When Socidedad made two changes, the token lady voice, Susana Guasch, managed to get both players completely wrong. Oh well - that's the sort of attention you get when you're bottom of the league.

Earlier on that evening Ronaldinho had set about re-confirming his status as the planet's most-talked about player, with a 'chilena' (bicycle-kick) against Villarreal that was straight out of Roy of the Rovers. The goal was wonderful, but even better was the flood of post-match soundbites. 'I've been dreaming about that goal ever since I was a kid' said Ron, teeth a-gleaming.

'I used to practise it all the time, on my bed'. So there you go. Villarreal's goalie, Barbosa, was moved to comment, 'Yeah - it was a great goal. I threw myself at the ball but I didn't really work out its trajectory. At least I'll come out on all the photos'.

Sunday saw a juicy fixture at the Mestalla between Valencia and Real Madrid, which the latter won 0-1 with a goal from Raùl. The game was dubbed 'morboso' (with plenty of needle) because like Atlético and Sociedad, there is little love lost these days between the two communities.

Real's Director of Football, Pedrag Mijatovic, sparked off the bad feeling when in 1996 he was transferred to Madrid, and his return to the Director's box was eagerly awaited by the insult merchants.

Fernando Morientes was also making his first appearance for Valencia against his old chums, and made it clear before the game that he had every intention of celebrating in the event of scoring. He last did this when playing on loan for Monaco, when his two goals put Madrid out the Champions League.

Since then, Real have contractually banned their loan players from turning out against them. Valencia's manager Quique Flores once played for Real Madrid, under no less than Fabio Capello. It was the Italian who decided Flores was surplus to requirements, hastening the fading player's departure from the Bernabéu.

Flores took some comfort from the build-up to the game, as it seemed to temporarily close ranks against the visiting enemy. This season has seen a bitter internal struggle between the manager and the new Director of Football, ex-defender Carboni, and so bad has the conflict been that one head at least is expected to roll in the non-too-distant future.

Raúl's goal might not have done Flores any favours, in the long run. Valencia look fine in Europe, but are spluttering in the league, whilst Sevilla just get better and better, winning again (1-3 in Bilbao) just four days after waltzing through a midweek UEFA game.

A top three is beginning to take shape, but my money's still on Sevilla. They're so good that even commentators on La Sexta know their players' names.

From the weekly article on Spanish Football by Phil Ball, which appears on Soccernet

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Actual Customizable PS3 'Skin'

Now that's what I call a sexy console..

'Simultaneous toasting of a bread component'

McDonald's has filed a patent application in Europe and the US for making sandwiches:

The burger company says owning the 'intellectual property rights' would help its hot deli sandwiches look and taste the same at all of its restaurants. It also wants to cut down on the time needed to put together a sandwich, thought to have been dreamt up by the Earl of Sandwich in 1762.

The 55-page patent, which has been filed in the US and Europe, covers the 'simultaneous toasting of a bread component'. Garnishes of lettuce, onions and tomatoes, as well as salt, pepper and ketchup, are inserted into a cavity in a 'sandwich delivery tool'.

The 'bread component' is placed over the cavity and the assembly tool is inverted to tip out the contents. Finally, the filling is placed in the 'bread component'. It explains: 'Often the sandwich filling is the source of the name of the sandwich; for example, ham sandwich.'

Ukrainian steampunk plane

Ukraine's Aeroprakt is manufacturing this neo-Victorian wooden airplane. No other details are known - is it veneer? Solid? One of a kind? Mass-manufactured?

The Perrenial Underachievers

by Simon Garfield
Sunday November 26, 2006
The Observer

Oh how long ago it seems. That gleaming trophy, those flags on every car, that young boy who had never played a professional game, that very tall boy who did a barmy dance, those wives and girlfriends with their extending hair, that red card for the greatest player, those three missed penalties, one by one by one, that shiny-headed man who hadn't the foggiest.

And now, six months later, how cold it is in our thin England shirts as we struggle against the Macedonians, and how far away is South Africa in 2010, and how clueless seems the new manager. But it never ends, this unaccountable optimism, for what is this warming up along the touchline? It is our faith in divine intervention. For how young still is our greatest player, and how fast and dazzling is he, and how relentless our ambition and blind our vision, and how our supermarkets are once more full of merch. How sure we are that next time we will be the envy of all nations again and lift something golden on a beautiful day in early July, as we jam up Piccadilly Circus with car horns and the kissing of strangers.

What a terrible, unrealistic cycle. Why do we put ourselves through it?
If you're not a little Englander, this was a good World Cup, almost a great one. The stadiums were finished, most fans behaved, the hosts were hospitable and the football was exciting from the 4-2 feast of the first match to the Zidane lunacy in the last. We had magnificent goals from Maxi Rodriguez, Philipp Lahm, Deco, Joe Cole and the 24-touch Argentinians. We applauded the early crappiness of the French and the superb madness of Graham Poll. And the English: we were not 'going home by the weekend' as Germans sang outside our hotels, but stuttered through, default after default, into the knockout stages where the decent teams lay in wait with their lethal abilities to expose the holes and hilarity in our 'formations'. So of course it wasn't long before John Terry was crying on the pitch while the Portuguese leapt around him, and we went out into the streets after the game and a real depression descended on a hoarse country. It was a clear night and warm, and that clammy feeling we had that we were not good enough to sustain an assault from 12 yards, let alone endure a competition that lasted a month? Well, that was the truth.

When did the rot set in? The Rooney injury? The Lampard-Gerrard conundrum? The Sven-Goran Eriksson appointment? The departure of Sir Alf Ramsey? Winston Churchill and the spirit of the Blitz? Perhaps we should begin in early May 2006, with Eriksson on a high Dave Allen stool announcing the squad. Theo Walcott must have been thrilled when you told him, one reporter ventured in an admiring tone (many of the tones were admiring back then and some were fawning: following an interview between Eriksson and Garth Crooks, Eamon Dunphy said that it was the first time he had seen two men having sex on the BBC). Sven explained that he had not yet spoken to Walcott, so he would learn of his inclusion ahead of Darren Bent, Andy Johnson and Jermain Defoe from the media. New management technique.

Otherwise, it was all nervous smiles: 'I think we have one of the best teams in the world, absolutely,' Eriksson said. 'The squad is very, very strong.' And how strong, say, against Brazil? 'Well I hope we can meet them in the semi-final and beat them. But first of all we have to start practising ...'

Unusual, junior playground verb. Does Mourinho take his team practising? Or Arsene or Sir Alex? But for once Eriksson may have had one over on us: England's final warm-up match ended with a 6-0 thrashing of Jamaica, something akin to practising against a wall. Peter Crouch scored three and when he danced you had to shield your eyes from the horror of it. It was the last performance under Sven that was in any way convincing and was just the thing to create a false sense of conviction that we had a shot at progressing to at least the semi-finals. But how much did the players believe it? A few weeks before flying to Germany, John Terry told readers of this magazine to take it easy. 'I do think it's hyped up a bit. I think if you left it alone and you let the whole nation build up to it together as we slowly go on through the tournament ... Mr Eriksson done great for us and it's time he was moving on. As a country we have got a good chance, but let's not hype it up and say we've got a very good chance. We need that little bit of luck.'

The luck came early - a favourable group draw. And it ran out four minutes after we took to the pitch in the first game against Paraguay, following that early own goal that gave England a 1-0 victory in the gruelling heat that appeared to take the team quite by surprise. We didn't seem to be fit enough for the conditions, not least Michael Owen, retired after 10 minutes of the second half. Striking substitute not used: Theo Walcott. Confusing substitute used to botch up system and bamboozle team-mates: Stewart Downing.

Against Trinidad & Tobago - Rooney's return, Crouch and Gerrard's very late winners, and 80 minutes of head-scratching - England again showed the world how best to play below one's abilities. A little later, on our way home, Lampard and others spoke of how we didn't deserve to lose, deserved indeed to go all the way. Why was this precisely? It was because we still heard Kenneth Wolstenholme and David Coleman more clearly than we heard Alan Green and Alan Hansen. Or as Coleman almost said: we couldn't believe what was not happening to us.

As it was, England did proceed, from the 2-2 draw against Sweden (such a good start, such a daring goal from Joe Cole, such a shambolic end) to the dispiriting 1-0 victory against Ecuador. And the quarter-final against Portugal? Too burnt in the brain to bear recall, although one feature bears repeating. As penalties neared, the players had only to think of a training session earlier in the week. The team spot-kicked against David James and Paul Robinson. No pressure, only a practice. Frank Lampard scored three out of three, but no one else did. Gerrard, Carragher, the Coles, Hargreaves, Lennon and young Theo - high, wide, saved, fluffed.

What can we take from this World Cup beyond disillusion? Astonishingly, Eriksson still takes a salary (the FA will continue to reward his performance until next summer, or when he gets another job). Surprisingly, Owen Hargreaves emerged with plaudits, only to go back to Bayern and break his leg. Other players still suffer each week with a hangover: Cristiano Ronaldo soaking up the boos for his winning penalty and chilling wink to the Portugal bench ('done and done!') as Rooney saw red; Lampard facing a new chant on his travels: 'You let your country down.' And then we have the autobiographies - advances agreed in anticipation, manuscript delivered in desperation, some of the sales figures counted on fingers - with Lampard, Gerrard, Rooney and Ferdinand on the reasons for the gloom: we let ourselves down; we were unlucky with injuries and cards; good experience for next time! You could search for a month before finding any genuine sadness at Eriksson's departure, or much enthusiasm for the business-as-usual accession of Steve McClaren. Occasionally, an honest insight: 'Personally,' Rio Ferdinand explained, 'I feel that if you haven't played well you need to be told to buck your ideas up ... Under Sven that wasn't the case. I never heard anybody get a bollocking during his time as manager or get so much as a "listen, you're not doing this right".' From Steven Gerrard on the final game: 'Almost immediately we had a reality check. Portugal surprised me by how well they kept the ball ...' And Gerrard again on the flight home: 'We were the Golden Generation ... We were just not as good as we think we are.'

And so it is that the England flags still flutter in the general direction of Switzerland and Austria for Euro 2008 and South Africa for the next World Cup. For that, ultimately, is our triumph: we are a nation of good branding. How else to explain Umbro's claim that the England shirt is the biggest seller in the world? Why else to cart home the charmless spilth created by the 45 companies licensed by the FA to bear the England lions? A while ago it used to be the football that provided the best memories, but now we have the crested facecloths and souvenir deodorants.

And yet we continue to follow the team when there are better things to do. 'It's unique,' Eriksson observed not long before his departure. 'The people who are there an hour before the kick-off, standing in the rain, the wind and the cold, drinking a beer outside the pub, talking football, singing, in shirtsleeves even when it's freezing. It's unbelievable. It's England.' Rather too true, alas.

Simon Garfield's latest book is Private Battles: Our Intimate Diaries - How the War Almost Defeated Us (Ebury)

Post-Thanksgiving Food Coma Dream

The night after Thanksgiving, I had a nightmare which, given the amount of rich food I had, isn't a total shocker. What is shocking is the sheer banality and eerie randomness of said nightmare: me sitting in a dimly lit room with no exits and no windows. It had a single chair, a single table and a single TV with a DVD player. On the table was a single DVD: Season 1 of Murder, She Wrote.

Now that's a scary dream..

Rockets, riots and rivalry

Israeli football is fast becoming a mirror of the country itself: a battleground between Arab and Jew. James Montague talks to Abbass Swan, an Arab star of the national team, about war, religion and the rise of hooliganism

Sunday November 26, 2006
Observer Sport Monthly

Haifa is one of the few cities in Israel where Jews and Arabs are close to being integrated. The local football team, Maccabi Haifa, have long championed Israeli Arab players and Abbass Swan, their major summer signing, is the country's most prominent Arab footballer.

In 2004, he led his hometown club and Israel's most successful Arab team, Bnei Sakhnin, to the Israeli Cup and he is a regular in the national side. For many, Abbass is an example of someone proud to be both Muslim and Israeli. He was nominated as one of Time magazine's heroes of 2005.

'The Haifa fans accepted me very quickly,' Abbass told me when I visited him at his home in Sakhnin, a small town in northern Israel, about 20 miles east of Haifa, where the industrial suburbs are replaced by olive groves and flat, sand-yellow buildings. 'Some kids wrote slogans about me because I'm an Arab, but the club stamped down on that.'
Away from Haifa, Swan is prepared to encounter a vociferous hatred. 'Israeli fans are wonderful, some of the best in the world,' he says. 'At the same time, there are a few that behave shamefully.' He is thinking, in particular, of the supporters of Beitar Jerusalem.

In March 2005, Swan scored Israel's last-minute equaliser against the Republic of Ireland in a World Cup qualifier. But a week later, he played at Beitar's notorious Teddy stadium and the home fans unfurled a banner that said: 'Swan, you do not represent us.' After a game at Sakhnin, Beitar fans rioted and broke into the room where Swan was giving a TV interview. He escaped, but says that the police at the ground failed to intervene. Yet he recently considered becoming Beitar's first Arab player following an approach from the club's owner, the Russia-born tycoon Arcadi Gaydamak. He is the father of Portsmouth owner Alexandre Gaydamak. 'I said I was ready, that I could do it,' Swan says, with an odd expression of disappointment. 'I believe he was trying to break the image of Beitar and say that Arab players could play for them. But he got into trouble in Jerusalem. In the end, he apologised and said he couldn't sign me.'

Instead, Swan joined Haifa. In July, the port city was subject to Hizbollah's fierce bombardment during the war with the militia in Lebanon. A Katyusha rocket landed outside Haifa's Kiryat Eliezer stadium; the FA banned all games in northern Israel, while Uefa forced teams to play European matches abroad. Haifa had to play a 'home' Champions League qualifying match against Liverpool in Ukraine.

The domestic season eventually began on 26 August, 12 days after the ceasefire was announced and a week later than planned. On the opening day, Maccabi Haifa played Maccabi Netanya at the latter's crumbling stadium just north of Tel Aviv. On any given Saturday a game in this league would open up a host of rivalries: Israeli Jew versus Israeli Arab, the Likud party versus Labour, wealthy clubs playing those that can't afford their own ground. But on this sunny afternoon, there was a defiant atmosphere. The two sets of fans had a common enemy: Hizbollah.

Outside the stadium, wearing a green and white Maccabi Haifa top and clutching a large wooden suitcase, Oren was doing a brisk trade selling polyester scarves and tacky Star of David necklaces. Even more popular were stickers of a cartoon Haifa fan urinating on the face of Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. He translated the words on the green sticker: 'Nasrallah, you're garbage.'

'We've a chant for him today,' he said. '"Yallah, yallah, Nasrallah, I kill you, I kill you Insha'Allah".' Given the team's war-interrupted preparations, it was little surprise when Haifa lost the game 3-1. Swan, an unused substitute, never made it on to the pitch.

A day later, Beitar fans were living down to their reputation when at least 7,000 travelled to their opening match against arch-rivals Maccabi Tel Aviv. 'We hate Arabs and Muslims,' shouted 19-year-old fan Eliran, a member of Beitar's La Familia hooligan gang. 'If any Arab played for Beitar, we'd burn their ass and burn the club. They're our enemy.'

For the duration of the game the travelling contingent chanted anti-Arab songs, threw half-eaten pretzels at the referee and, later, rioted in Tel Aviv's southern suburbs to celebrate their team's 2-1 victory. Even Ossie Ardiles, briefly Beitar's manager this year and a man who knows a thing or two about prejudice as an Argentine who played in England in the aftermath of the Falklands War, has reservations about signing an Arab. 'If there was [an Arab] player good enough I'd think about bringing him here,' he told me. 'But the Teddy is a special place and I don't know if an Arab player can play with this level of animosity from our own supporters. Yes, of course, I would prefer this feeling didn't exist, but it does.'

Swan's old club, Bnei Sakhnin, will not be playing Beitar this season. They were relegated from the Israeli Premier League last year and almost went bust before Gaydamak came to the rescue with a donation of £280,000.

After our conversation, Swan took me to Bnei's Doha Stadium, so-called because it was paid for by the Qatari government. He peered dreamily across the empty stands. 'When we won the national cup [in 2004] I was so proud for the Arabs in Israel, proud that we were narrowing the gaps between communities through football,' he said. 'Now there are many symbols attached to me and many see me as an Arab symbol, nothing more. When the war broke out, everybody asked me what I thought. The truth is, a drop of blood from a Jewish or Arab child is the same. The missiles don't distinguish between Jews and Arabs.'

Jim Montague is working on a book about Middle Eastern football.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Mondegreens: A Short Guide

By Gavin Edwards

My first misheard lyric came at the advanced age of six, when I learned to sing "Row, Row Your Boat." I was convinced that the line after "merrily merrily merrily" was "life's a butter dream," rather than the more canonical "life is but a dream." I wasn't sure what visions of dairy products had to do with a boat trip, but I didn't have the courage to ask anybody.

Eventually my mistake was discovered in an elementary-school chorus class, and I suffered the humiliation that can only be experienced in elementary-school chorus classes. But although the shame eventually subsided, the pattern would repeat itself for the rest of my life. Usually, it wasn't even a question of mulling over the lyrics and then getting them wrong. I would dive straight into a state of ignorance, and only be rudely corrected if I read a lyric sheet or heard somebody else singing the accurate version of a song.

Misheard lyrics come with many alternate names, only some of which form compound nouns when joined with the word "boneheaded." Some of the names that have been used: Music Ear Disturbance, disclexia, chronic lyricosis, and Litellas (after Gilda Radner's befuddled Saturday Night Live character). The technical term prized by aficionados is mondegreen. If your dictionary doesn't include "mondegreen," throw it out and buy a better one.

The term 'Mondegreen' was coined by Sylvia Wright in a 1954 Atlantic article. As a child, young Sylvia had listened to a folk song that included the lines "They had slain the Earl of Moray/And Lady Mondegreen." As is customary with misheard lyrics, she didn't realize her mistake for years. The song was not about the tragic fate of Lady Mondegreen, but rather, the continuing plight of the good earl: "They had slain the Earl of Moray/And laid him on the green."

Mondegreens can be found in every area of the spoken word, from the record-buyer who asks for a copy the Queen single "Bohemian Rap City" to the schoolchild who is convinced that the Pledge of Allegiance begins "I led the pigeons to the flag." They tend to be about primal concerns: food, sex, animals. Any misheard lyric is an impromptu audio Rorshach test. It can be alarming to discover that significant parts of our brains want pop songs to cover the lyrical topics of cheese, walruses, and clowns. Songwriters take note: There is a large, untapped market for songs about food.

A good mondegreen lasts for years, and redefines how we hear the song. I had classmates who teased me about my butter dreams well into junior high school. Even when corrected, many people rightly decide that they prefer their version of the song to the one that's actually considered "correct"--and who would deny that "She wore raspberries and grapes" has more poetry in it that the relatively mundane "She wore a raspberry beret"?

We've learned not to pay much attention to the lyrics or rock and pop songs, but rather to let them wash over us and pick out individual phrases and choruses that we enjoy. (Some bands, like Pavement and the Fall, take advantage of our inconsistent ears, and write bitter, gnarled verses in what seem to be cheerful pop songs.) Some people never learn the words to a favorite song--or transmute them into something more to their own taste. My friend Alma liked Billy Idol's "Eyes Without a Face" because she thought the title was "I supply the fish." To my mind, this is a good thing, and not just because it lets me put out these collections of mondegreens. Pop songs aren't Ph.D. dissertations, or instruction manuals: they're supposed to be heard a million different ways, in a million different contexts. Customization is the only rational response to omnipresence.

So people continue to mangle lyrics, and to send me mondegreens by the bushel, either boldly owning up to their errors or cravenly blaming close friends and relatives for the mistake. And I make every human effort to separate the deliberate mishearings from those of the confused and befuddled; some of the most humiliating mistakes come from the most earnest sources. Misheard lyrics often become family legends, as evidenced by this letter from Daniel Brotschul of Gainesville, Florida: "I'll never forget singing 'Paperlate' by Genesis while in the shower as an elementary school student. I thought it was 'Paper Lake.' When I got out of the shower, I was humiliated by my siblings, who mocked me, saying, 'Look! You're all wet! You've got confetti in your hair! Anyone want to go for a swim in Lake Memo?'"

Some folks get so confused by the lack of articulation in the musical world that they begin to mangle band names, and call Hüsker Dü the inappropriate "Who Skidoo." This is why people mistakenly refer to Andy Gibb as "Auntie Gibb," Hall and Oates as "Hollow Notes," and Sam and Dave as "Salmon Dave." It doesn't, however, explain those who few who refer to Bruce Springsteen as "The Chief," rather than "The Boss."

Please do not be too quick to judge their errors. To put myself in a more charitable frame of mind, I need only recall my most embarassing mondegreen moment: singing along at the top of my lungs to a Go-Gos single at a party, convinced that the chorus was "Alex the Seal," not "Our lips are sealed."

This essay is adapted from the introductions to 'Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy, He's Got the Whole World in His Pants, and When a Man Loves a Walnut.

Friday, November 24, 2006

New kind of fish

A Fathead (genus Psychrolutes) trawled during the NORFANZ expedition at a depth between 1013 m and 1340 m, on the Norfolk Ridge, north-west of New Zealand, June 2003 (AMS I.42771-001). Photo: K. Parkinson © Australian Museum. The scientists and crew on board the RV Tangaroa affectionately called this fish 'Mr Blobby'. Note the parasitic copepod on Mr Blobby's mouth.

Inspiring headlines

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Indie Heaven

Movies come out on DVD faster than they used to, and indie movies with limited theatrical releases generally reach disc within eight to 12 weeks of their first appearance in theaters. For obscure or difficult or niche-market movies that come and go quickly in a few big cities, Netflix and Amazon now represent their main chance to build an enduring audience.

So here's my completely subjective list of the best, and least appreciated, independent films of 2006 that are already available on video (or will be released by Christmas). Some are still, mysteriously, missing. Where is the horrifying documentary "Darwin's Nightmare"? I have no idea. Why is Jean-Pierre Melville's "Army of Shadows," the best-reviewed rerelease of the year, only available as a European import?

Everything here, with the possible exception of the sleeper hit "Brick," didn't quite find the audience it deserved; some of them, like Russian director Ilya Khrzhanovsky's hallucinatory, indescribable "4," didn't find any audience at all. So damn it all, watch them.

There's bound to be some overlap between this list and my forthcoming top-10 list for the year, so this one is alphabetical and unranked.

"Agnes and His Brothers" This thrilling, angry and disturbing family comedy from German director Oskar Roehler is a mess: It's partly a vulgar sex farce, partly a rip-off of "American Beauty," partly a political satire and partly a Teutonic version of the Almodóvar-style gender-bending melodrama. It might also be a scabrous take on the prevailing cultural climate of post-Wall Germany -- and it might also be the most exciting film I've seen all year. (To be released Dec. 19.)

"Battle in Heaven" Mexican director Carlos Reygadas' contemplative, slow-moving crime saga opens with a remarkably beautiful young woman on her knees in front of a remarkably fat and ugly guy, and she's not giving him a pedicure. The various real-life sex scenes are memorable indeed (and will probably ensure "Battle in Heaven" a long life on DVD) but the real question is whether Reygadas is Latin America's answer to Tarkovsky or a pretentious poseur. I didn't adore this when I first saw it, but its potent images have never left me.

"The Beauty Academy of Kabul" Of all the movies I've seen about the United States' entanglement in the Arab and Islamic worlds over the last three years, none has been stranger, funnier or more enlightening than Liz Mermin's documentary about a group of American stylists and Afghan émigrés who try to set up a cosmetology school in the post-Taliban Afghan capital. (To be released Dec. 19.)

"Brick" Rian Johnson's debut feature, a Hammett-goes-to-high-school noir shot in his (and Richard Nixon's) suburban hometown of San Clemente, Calif., turns out to be more than a one-trick pony. It might be the most sincere reinterpretation of the detective genre in 30 years. Plus, it's sweet, funny and scary in just the right doses.

"Brothers of the Head" I really thought that this film about a pair of conjoined (aka "Siamese") twins who are sold by their dad to a sleazeball promoter and become minor glam-rock legends in mid-'70s England would be trash too. But it's great! Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe's fiction-film debut is a spooky, mysterious movie with a rock 'n' roll heart and dirt under its nails, capturing the anarchic energy of its time and place and making you believe, for a few moments, that something this weird and grotesque could really have happened. (Adapted from the novel by science-fiction legend Brian Aldiss.)

"CSA: Confederate States of America" Kevin Willmott's mockumentary about a contemporary America in which the South has won the Civil War and slavery has continued into the 20th century was castigated in some quarters for its historical inaccuracies and perceived blind spots. Hello! "CSA" is satire, not a careful rendering of alternate history. Some people just didn't want to deal with how funny it is, and how ruthlessly it asks audiences just what our racial attitudes really are.

"The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" An ultra-dark comic journey through the Bucharest night with a lonely, dying Romanian alcoholic, Cristi Puiu's film has been the toast of many festivals, without finding much of a paying audience anywhere. Even calling it a comedy is misleading; "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu," which transpires almost in real time, has a sense of humor closely allied to terror and to compassion. Along the path through many hospital waiting rooms toward Mr. Lazarescu's possible demise (his first name, by the way, is Dante), we encounter an accidental panoply of human dreams and desires. This is the first film in Puiu's series "Six Stories From the Bucharest Suburbs," which might be the most important film event out of Eastern Europe since Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Decalogue."

"The Fallen Idol" For buffs of classic British cinema, nothing else this year approaches the rediscovery of Carol Reed's 1948 drama -- written by Graham Greene! -- about a lonely little boy in a big London house, whose only friend is Baines (Ralph Richardson), the wisecracking butler with a host of adventure tales to tell. It's a mystery but not a ghost story, a tale of subtly shifting loyalties told through Reed's expert point-of-view camerawork and psychological manipulation.

"4" Ilya Khrzhanovsky's extraordinary debut proves that the ironic, self-obsessed, half-crazy spirit of Russian filmmaking is alive and well. "4" begins as an erotic, mysterious mood piece about a group of strangers in a Moscow bar and ends as a grotesque satire of the kind of "village movie" so often made in Russia. In between it's about whores, dogs, the dark side of the meat industry and the secret human cloning project conducted by the Soviet regime under Stalin and Khrushchev. The director may be young, but the script is by veteran Moscow avant-gardist Vladimir Sorokin. (To be released Dec. 12.)

"Gabrielle" Patrice Chéreau, the onetime enfant terrible of the opera world, has grown up into a new identity as a cerebral filmmaker, heir to the vacant Great Man of Cinema throne. This spiny, experimental adaptation of Joseph Conrad's novella "The Return" is an early 20th-century costume drama, but also one that stretches the film medium to the breaking point, with intertitles, silent passages, switchbacks from black-and-white to color, strident modernist music and other trickery. Pascal Greggory and Isabelle Huppert are terrific as the central warring couple, but most of all "Gabrielle" throws down the gauntlet before the rest of contemporary cinema. Not easy to watch, but a great ride for the right kind of viewer. (To be released Dec. 19)

"Lady Vengeance" I know the fanboys won't let me into their party for saying this, but the final installment of Korean filmmaker Park Chanwook's "Vengeance" trilogy, after the acclaimed "Oldboy" and "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance," is the best, and by far the most serious. With huge Korean star Lee Young-ae as a recently released convict who is plagued by genuine guilt (but still pursuing those who have wronged her), it's more of a character study -- and more cognizant of the genuine costs of violence -- than Park's more charismatic earlier films.

"L'Enfant" Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's latest portrait of down-and-out street life in Belgium's drab industrial cities captured the 2005 Palme d'Or at Cannes -- and as usual that meant absolutely nothing in the United States. Still, this tale of a feckless, likable hustler, the lovely girl he betrays and the baby he sells (all with the best intentions!) is told with remarkable cinematic energy and intensity. Some mavens prefer the Dardennes' other films ("La Promesse," "Rosetta" and "The Son"), but for believers in the European cinematic tradition, this is not to be missed.

"Nathalie" A wicked shape-shifter from the underappreciated French filmmaker Anne Fontaine ("How I Killed My Father"), this one pairs Gallic screen legends Gérard Depardieu and Fanny Ardant as the moving parts in a crumbling marriage. Discovering that her husband is having an affair, Ardant's character hires a sultry, dead-eyed hooker (Emmanuelle Béart) to seduce him. Anything more I might tell you would give the game away; suffice it to say this is a psychological puzzler, terrifically filmed and brilliantly acted, with a dynamite payoff.

"On the Outs" A compelling and compact, if didactic, fable of three young women dealing with post-prison life on the impressively mean streets of Jersey City, N.J. Brilliant starring performance from Judy Marte as a tough-girl drug dealer, and a promising fiction-feature debut from documentarians Lori Silverbush and Michael Skolnik.

"Our Brand Is Crisis" You might not think that a movie about a presidential election in Bolivia would tell you much about American politics. You'd be wrong. Documentarian Rachel Boynton brought her cameras to South America to follow the consultants of Greenberg Carville Shrum, the now-defunct firm headed by former Bill Clinton aides Stan Greenberg and James Carville, as they try to get an American-style reform candidate elected. There are no heroes or villains in Boynton's story, which ends up being fascinating, chilling and tragicomic, with an unexpected conclusion.

"The Road to Guantánamo" Hardly anyone wanted to see Michael Winterbottom's riveting docudrama about the three British Muslims held in Gitmo for three years, and tortured as possible Taliban or al-Qaida fighters, when it first came out. I see no indication that has changed. I mean, now that the Democrats have won the election and U.S. foreign policy has returned to sanity, all that stuff is behind us, right?

"Somersault" Australian director Cate Shortland's debut is about a young girl who runs away from home, hooks up with the wrong guys and gets into trouble. But it also isn't: It's a marvelous landscape picture, capturing an out-of-season ski resort and the lovely face of young Heidi (Abbie Cornish) with the same dispassion. Cornish is an awesome young actress (she's also in the current "Candy") and this movie is one of the year's true discoveries.

"Three Times" So Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien, darling of the international cinéaste set but virtually an unknown commodity to American moviegoers, finally got one of his films released in the United States. It's a Hou movie all the way, a languorous but intimate love story told in three different eras of recent Chinese history, with the same two actors, Chang Chen and the beautiful Shu Qi, playing the two lovers in each segment. It's lovely and slow-moving, depicting time in its granular, tiny moments and its ungraspable infinitude. So it was a big art-house hit, right? Um, sure.

"Time to Leave" I've been agnostic so far on François Ozon ("Under the Sand" and "Swimming Pool"), who's pretty much the name French director of the moment. But "Time to Leave" is a near-perfect miniature about a shallow Parisian fashion photographer (played by Gallic pretty boy Melvil Poupaud) who learns he has only months to live and must make peace with himself and his family as best he can. It's a tender, heartfelt work that never panders with sentimentality or tries to convince us that mortality makes us morally superior. Shot in CinemaScope, "Time to Leave" is also one of the most spectacular pictorial experiences of the year. (To be released Nov.28.)

"Wassup Rockers" Larry Clark's latest teen docudrama, recounting the almost-real-life adventures of a bunch of Latino skate punks lost among the paler people of Beverly Hills, has a tenderness that's always been near the surface of Clark's work. The sex and drugs are kept to an R-rated level, and Clark seems to have realized, finally, that his audiences are not shocked to learn that today's teens do stuff. So the result is a likable, even zany quality, a rough-and-tumble odyssey told with compassion and humor.

"Zizek!" Directed by onetime Salon contributor Astra Taylor, this irreverent, intelligent documentary explores the life and worldview of Slovenian sociologist and philosopher Slavoj Zizek, who turns out to be a brilliant and mostly comprehensible dude, despite being relentlessly name-checked by the brothers Wachowski throughout the "Matrix" trilogy.

I don't know how widely the new 35mm print of Agnès Varda's 1961 "Cléo From 5 to 7" will play after opening this week at New York's IFC Center. But, God, I hope it comes to your town too, because it sure is wonderful. Out of slight material -- a spoiled actress and pop star, Cléo (Corinne Marchand), wanders the streets of Paris for two hours, distracted and anxious, while awaiting the results of a medical test -- Varda creates a tapestry of city life, and a consideration of mortality, that's joyful, simple, daring and profound.

The long traveling shots from inside the various taxis, cars and buses Cléo rides in are worth the price of admission by themselves. That's not even counting the amazing cafe scene, where she eavesdrops on half a dozen conversations, the even more amazing musical number (written by jazz pianist Michel Legrand, who appears as Cléo's songwriter and rejected lover) or the interlude of silent-film comedy. With its lighthearted experimentation and its magical transformation of a shallow, self-absorbed girl into a romantic heroine, "Cléo" is, for me, above all other films of the French New Wave.

For a radically different vision of French pop culture, try Emmanuelle Bercot's lurid but highly absorbing new film "Backstage," which I caught last spring at the Tribeca Film Festival. Emmanuelle Seigner (that's Mrs. Polanski to you) stars as the icy blond Madonna-style pop idol with an even icier heart who is an object of worship to the lonely small-town girl played by Isild Le Besco. When the idol and her biggest fan are brought together for a trashy reality-TV special, they become entangled in a relationship of mutual dependency.

Most of the twists and turns this twosome takes are familiar -- drug orgies, a shared male lover, overtones and undertones and just plain tones of lesbian obsession -- but Bercot renders the vapid luxury-suite life of stardom in highly convincing detail and both actresses play these mismatched, needy creatures with skin-crawling realism. Photographed by the great Agnès Godard with a lustrous, decadent gloss, "Backstage" offers a fascinating study of pop capitalism in late-stage decline. (Now playing at Film Forum in New York. Opens Dec. 15 at the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles, Jan. 5 in San Francisco, Feb. 2 in Chicago and Denver, and Feb. 9 in Boston, with more cities to follow.)

What with Richard Linklater's "Fast Food Nation" and Nikolaus Geyrhalter's near-silent new documentary "Our Daily Bread," upscale moviegoers may never wish to eat again. Stuart Klawans, the Nation's excellent film critic, has compared "Our Daily Bread" to Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," whereas I was reminded of "The Matrix." A generational difference, I suppose. Whatever your choice of science-fiction comparatives, Geyrhalter's film is a chilling, commentary-free, widescreen study of industrial food production. (He's Austrian, and the film was shot in various countries of Western Europe.)

Yes, much of it is upsetting: We see cows, pigs and chickens slaughtered, as well as sunflowers harvested, farmed salmon sucked through a huge hose, tomatoes and peppers picked via robotic conveyor belt. Whatever your conclusions about that stuff, the really troubling part is the presence of human beings -- almost expressionless in their astronaut suits, rubber boots and goggles -- as they wander through this perfect, antiseptic landscape of death. I was reminded of the late-Marxist philosophical notion that the most important product of industrial capitalism was not the commodities but the workers themselves, and the sense of space and time to which they are conditioned. (Opens Nov. 24 at Anthology Film Archives in New York and Facets Cinematheque in Chicago, with more venues to follow.)

I wanted to like "Opal Dream," the new flick from "Full Monty" director Peter Cattaneo, more than I did, but for fans of Ben Rice's beloved Australian children's novel "Pobby and Dingan," this adaptation will have to do. Young Kellyanne (wonderfully played by Sapphire Boyce) is an odd and sensitive girl stuck in an Outback opal-mining town. Her dad (Vince Colosimo) is accused of "ratting" on another miner's claim (i.e., invading it) -- and now her imaginary friends, Pobby and Dingan, have gone missing! Eventually, "Opal Dream" does deliver its desired emotional payoff, as Kellyanne's predicament reunites the brutally divided town, but it's too bad Cattaneo's direction is so foursquare and sentimental, and most of the acting so hambone-obvious. Certainly this is a sweet-tempered family flick, but Rice's book and its fans, young and old, deserve something more nuanced. (Now playing in New York and Los Angeles. Opens Dec. 8 in San Francisco, Dec. 15 in Minneapolis, Dec. 22 in Denver, Jan. 19 in Chicago and Portland, Ore., and Feb. 2 in Boston, Dallas, Houston, St. Louis and Washington, with other cities to follow.)

My colleague Stephanie Zacharek has already published a wonderful tribute to Robert Altman to mark his unexpected death, and I won't attempt to compete. Suffice it to say that while there will be no more new Altman pictures to see, and that's irredeemably sad, the adventurous and unsinkable grandpa-sprite of indie film will always be with us. His legacy will continue to change, to reverberate throughout the medium, as long as people still make and watch movies.

Altman went out in high style, having recently made his biggest hit (and best film) in decades. He remained his irascible, charming self to the end; when I talked to him by phone last June, he had been feeling poorly but was telling dirty jokes and planning his next picture. An attractive female journalist of my acquaintance told me recently that when she last interviewed him, he jokingly suggested that if she was interested, he was available and the hotel bed was free. (She declined.)

He was perfectly frank about describing "A Prairie Home Companion" as "a movie about death," adding, "Listen, if you can't laugh at death, you really have no right to be here." I summoned the courage to ask him if he was just going to keep working until he dropped dead and he said absolutely, that was the plan.

Altman was jazzed about his planned fiction-film adaptation of the documentary "Hands on a Hard Body." (He had just cast Billy Bob Thornton in a leading role, and was almost ready to go.) Wherever he is right now, I know he's direly disappointed not to be making it. But I also feel confident that he laughed as he departed, laughed in that detached but compassionate Robert Altman way at his own vanity and ours, at the world of movies and people, at the silliness and certainty and beauty of it all.

From an article by Andrew O'Hehir which appeared in

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Never gets old

"I'm gonna rip your face off"

Joe Sayers's mini-comic, "I'm Gonna Rip Your Face Off"..that's some kind of bitter, angry funny..Check it here.

Carmen, want to use this for your kids?

Device to constrain your toddler while you use the toilet

There are many times I could have used this harness, meant to keep your kid out of trouble while you use a public toilet.

It reminds me of a story a friend told me. His wife is a social worker who goes into crack houses to rescue kids. One time, she walked into a decrepit crack house and found a baby duct taped to the wall.

From BoingBoing

Today's book pick is from 1898

Manybooks is offering a free book from 1898 called Full Revelations of a Professional Rat-catcher After 25 Years' Experience, by Ike Matthews. This short tome is sure to make wonderful fireplace reading for the whole family.

The damage Rats can do to property, commodities, etc., is almost incredible. I have had so many examples of this that I scarcely know which to submit as illustration. I think the worst case I have seen was where they gnawed a hole half way through a 2−1/4 inch lead pipe, and often I have known them to bite through a one−inch lead pipe. The worst damage is done when they get under the flag floors of cottage houses out of the drains. They scratch the soil from beneath the flags, which then sink, and the consequent stench from the drains is abominable, jeopardising the health of the tenants. I have seen a great many of these cases in the poorer parts of Manchester. The damage the Rats will do in the silk and similar trades, to the goods of merchants, or in the grocery business, is enormous, and not so much by reason of what they actually eat as by what they carry away, which is often ten times as much as they eat. I have often proved this when ferreting at a wholesale grocery warehouse. When we have taken up the boards between the laths and plaster we have found the ceiling almost full of lump sugar, nuts, candles, etc., which have been there for years, hoarded by the Rats. Now, this all means heavy loss, and that is why I say that any business man so suffering ought to engage the services of a professional Rat−catcher once a year in order to keep the Rats down, and catch as many as possible before they begin breeding.

Katamari Damacy Earmuffs

Katamari Damacy (Ka-ta-ma-ree/ Da-ma-shee) is a playstation thing. Trust me, it's hot.

Ten-legged "rocking" chair

This 10-legged rocking chair stutters from leg to leg as you rock it. Hard on the floors, easy on the eyes.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

All the James Bond title sequences

Those are usually the best part of any Bond movie. Check it.

Air quotes (for Forsooth)

If people put up two fingers on each hand for air quotes, why do they gesture twice? I ponder shit like that..

Here are a couple of Flickr pools with photos of signs that have words in quotations for no reason, and non-possessive plurals with apostrophes (also known as the "grocer's apostrophe."). Here's the quotation page and here's the apostrophe page.

EMI threatens cricket fans over parody songs

Nadine...what do you have to say for yourself?

Pirate sez, "Australian recording label EMI has threatened to sue Australian cricket fans for publishing parody songs based on popular pop songs at cricket matches."

EMI says The Fanatics' Ashes songbook breached copyright because it included altered lyrics to songs such as Go West by the Village People and Daydream Believer by The Monkees. The Daydream Believer parody included the lines: "Cheer up Michael Vaughan, How bad must it be, To a be a poor pommie whinger, And you're watching on TV?"

RIP Robert Altman

Shortcuts will always be one of my favorite movies ever..

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Robert Altman, the caustic and irreverent satirist behind "M-A-S-H," "Nashville" and "The Player" who made a career out of bucking Hollywood management and story conventions, died at a Los Angeles Hospital, his Sandcastle 5 Productions Company said Tuesday. He was 81.

The director died Monday night, Joshua Astrachan, a producer at Altman's Sandcastle 5 Productions in New York City, told The Associated Press.

The cause of death wasn't disclosed. A news release was expected later in the day, Astrachan said.

A five-time Academy Award nominee for best director, most recently for 2001's "Gosford Park," he finally won a lifetime achievement Oscar in 2006.

"No other filmmaker has gotten a better shake than I have," Altman said while accepting the award. "I'm very fortunate in my career. I've never had to direct a film I didn't choose or develop. My love for filmmaking has given me an entree to the world and to the human condition."

Altman had one of the most distinctive styles among modern filmmakers. He often employed huge ensemble casts, encouraged improvisation and overlapping dialogue and filmed scenes in long tracking shots that would flit from character to character.

Perpetually in and out of favor with audiences and critics, Altman worked ceaselessly since his anti-war black comedy "M-A-S-H" established his reputation in 1970, but he would go for years at a time directing obscure movies before roaring back with a hit.

After a string of commercial duds including "The Gingerbread Man" in 1998, "Cookie's Fortune" in 1999 and "Dr. T & the Women" in 2000, Altman took his all-American cynicism to Britain for 2001's "Gosford Park."

A combination murder-mystery and class-war satire set among snobbish socialites and their servants on an English estate in the 1930s, "Gosford Park" was Altman's biggest box-office success since "M-A-S-H."

Besides best-director, "Gosford Park" earned six other Oscar nominations, including best picture and best supporting actress for both Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith. It won the original-screenplay Oscar, and Altman took the best-director prize at the Golden Globes for "Gosford Park."

Altman's other best-director Oscar nominations came for "M-A-S-H," the country-music saga "Nashville" from 1975, the movie-business satire "The Player" from 1992 and the ensemble character study "Short Cuts" from 1993. He also earned a best-picture nomination as producer of "Nashville."

No director ever got more best-director nominations without winning a regular Oscar, though four other men -- Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Clarence Brown and King Vidor -- tied with Altman at five.

In May, Altman brought out "A Prairie Home Companion," with Garrison Keillor starring as the announcer of a folksy musical show -- with the same name as Keillor's own long-running show -- about to be shut down by new owners. Among those in the cast were Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Kline, Woody Harrelson and Tommy Lee Jones.

"This film is about death," Altman said at a May 3 news conference in St. Paul, Minn., also attended by Keillor and many of the movie's stars.

He often took on Hollywood genres with a revisionist's eye, de-romanticizing the Western hero in 1971's "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" and 1976's "Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson," the film-noir gumshoe in 1973's "The Long Goodbye" and outlaw gangsters in "Thieves Like Us."

"M-A-S-H" was Altman's first big success after years of directing television, commercials, industrial films and generally unremarkable feature films. The film starring Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould was set during the Korean War but was Altman's thinly veiled attack on U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

"That was my intention entirely. If you look at that film, there's no mention of what war it is," Altman said in an Associated Press interview in 2001, adding that the studio made him put a disclaimer at the beginning to identify the setting as Korea.

"Our mandate was bad taste. If anybody had a joke in the worst taste, it had a better chance of getting into the film, because nothing was in worse taste than that war itself," Altman said.

The film spawned the long-running TV sitcom starring Alan Alda, a show Altman would refer to with distaste as "that series." Unlike the social message of the film, the series was prompted by greed, Altman said.

"They made millions and millions of dollars by bringing an Asian war into Americans' homes every Sunday night," Altman said in 2001. "I thought that was the worst taste."

Altman never minced words about reproaching Hollywood. After the Sept. 11 attacks, he said Hollywood served as a source of inspiration for the terrorists by making violent action movies that amounted to training films for such attacks.

"Nobody would have thought to commit an atrocity like that unless they'd seen it in a movie," Altman said.

Altman was written off repeatedly by the Hollywood establishment, and his reputation for arrogance and hard drinking -- a habit he eventually gave up -- hindered his efforts to raise money for his idiosyncratic films.

While critical of studio executives, Altman held actors in the highest esteem. He joked that on "Gosford Park," he was there mainly to turn the lights on and off for the performers.

The respect was mutual. Top-name actors would clamor for even bit parts in his films. Altman generally worked on shoestring budgets, yet he continually landed marquee performers who signed on for a fraction of their normal salaries.

After the mid-1970s, the quality of Altman's films became increasingly erratic. His 1980 musical "Popeye," with Robin Williams, was trashed by critics, and Altman took some time off from film.

He directed the Broadway production of "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean," following it with a movie adaptation in 1982. Altman went back and forth from TV to theatrical films over the next decade, but even when his films earned critical praise, such as 1990's "Vincent & Theo," they remained largely unseen.

"The Player" and "Short Cuts" re-established Altman's reputation and commercial viability. But other 1990s films -- including his fashion-industry farce "Ready to Wear" and "Kansas City," his reverie on the 1930s jazz and gangster scene of his hometown -- fell flat.

Born Feb. 20, 1925, Altman hung out in his teen years at the jazz clubs of Kansas City, Mo., where his father was an insurance salesman.

Altman was a bomber pilot in World War II and studied engineering at the University of Missouri in Columbia before taking a job making industrial films in Kansas City. He moved into feature films with "The Delinquents" in 1957, then worked largely in television through the mid 1960s, directing episodes of such series as "Bonanza" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."

Altman and his wife, Kathryn, had two sons, Robert and Matthew, and he had a daughter, Christine, and two other sons, Michael and Stephen, from two previous marriages.

When he received his honorary Oscar in 2006, Altman revealed he had a heart transplant a decade earlier.

"I didn't make a big secret out of it, but I thought nobody would hire me again," he said after the ceremony. "You know, there's such a stigma about heart transplants, and there's a lot of us out there."

Monday, November 20, 2006

A belated tribute to Puskas

The beer-bellied genius
by Phil Ball

It's impossible to write anything this week without some mention of Ferenc Puskas, who died last Friday at the age of 79. Puskas influenced the histories of four nations: Germany, England, Hungary and Spain, in ways that are impossible to countenance now.

Puskas influenced Germany because he was the hub of the Hungarian side that lost so surprisingly in the 1954 final in Swizerland. He was injured before the game but insisted on playing. He went on to score, of course, but then had a goal disallowed in the final minutes - a goal that is second only in fame to the one that for many was the true founding day of the Federal Republic, 'Rahn schiesst. Tor!' (Rahn shoots. Goal!).

Puskas muckied his ticket that day by accusing the German side of taking performance-enhancing drugs, a claim he was forced to retract just before the famous European Cup Final against Eintracht Frankfurt in Glasgow in 1960, with the German side having threatened not to play if Puskas was in the Real Madrid line-up.

He influenced England because his famous performance at Wembley in 1953 focused the world on what an amazing side the Hungarians were - perhaps the best of all time. The game (and the subsequent 7-1 drubbing in Budapest) seemed to make England turn in on itself, in an act of hubris that has continued up to this day.

Others claim that it was the spark which awoke the country from its slumber, leading to the eventual triumph in 1966. Take your pick. But Puskas' outrageous goal that day, with the swivel, the turn and the famous drag-back that so flummoxed England's Billy Wright, was a goal of outrageous simplicity but deadly beauty.

No-one had really thought of doing things like that in Europe up to that point. What was the greatest invention in history? The wheel or the Puskas drag-back? As comedian Lenny Bruce once said, 'Anyone can invent a wheel'.

He influenced Hungary because he became its most famous figure, and he influenced Spain because of his remarkable career with Real Madrid, one which reads like an unlikely tale of ludicrous achievement. In his whole career, which spanned the mid- 1940s to the mid-1960s he scored a total of 765 goals in 805 games. For Real Madrid, he scored 324 in 372 games - figures that make mind-boggling reading when you consider that he was 31 when he joined them.

It's difficult to convey to a younger football audience the sort of volatile political scene that existed in the 1950s, during the painful post-war years of political re-shaping. After the suppression by Soviet troops of the Hungarian uprising in 1956, Puskas and the Honved Squad had toured Europe, voluntary exiles from the dangers of Budapest.

In November 1956 they were invited by Franco's wife (apparently) to play against a Madrid Select XI, since any enemies of the Reds were potential friends of the dictator.

Santiago Bernabéu saw the game (a 5-5 draw) and two years later, learning that Puskas had been twiddling his thumbs in Bologna and had not played for a year, invited him over to sign. With apologies to Spanish readers who probably know the anecdote, Puskas was presented to the press on August 1, 1958, a little fat man with an alarming beer belly. The manager at the time, Luis Carniglia, took one look at him and declared famously: 'What the f*** am I supposed to do with this guy? He's fatter than my grandmother', to which Bernabéu replied 'That's what I pay you for. You make him prettier!'

He didn't get any prettier, but he shifted a Real Madrid side who were already in top gear into overdrive. They'd just won three European Cups on the trot, but were to win another three with Puskas. The five-season consecutive winning run of Europe's newest and most prestigious trophy culminated in the staggering 7-3 demolition of Frankfurt in Glasgow in 1960, described by one Guardian journalist in 2002 as 'Olivier at his peak, the Armory Show and the Sydney Opera House rolled into one'. Puskas scored four, and could have had ten.

When people talk about the top players of all time, they are invariably limited by numerical convenience to citing the top three - although for some that number is a crowd. The Holy Trinity, all still alive but not kicking, are for most people Pele, Maradona and Di Stéfano. The Number One amongst them is a topic for endless and probably futile debate, but the other two knocking on the door for admittance are surely Cruyff and Puskas.

Statistics alone put Puskas up there with the best, although like Di Stéfano his reputation suffers from there being less footage of his exploits. In Madrid, however, there is little argument.

Puskas' immediate footballing relationship with Di Stéfano and Gento is the stuff of legends, the kind of harmony that only comes together as a fluke, as a happy confluence of circumstances, however much the pieces might have apparently been planned. Therein lies the beauty of the Puskas story - 'Canoncito Pum' as he was nicknamed in Madrid (Little Cannon Bang!), a phrase which alluded to his ability to generate extraordinary power in his shots with hardly a lifting of the leg.

Against Santander this weekend in the Bernabéu, the ground observed a minute's silence and various acts took place to pay homage to the man who had retired before any of Sunday's home players were born. Madrid won 3-1, despite playing rather poorly, and after each goal the scorers lifted a symbolic hand to the sky. Touching stuff, and nice to see genius acknowledged, especially the variety that comes with a beer-belly attached.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Anti-semitic humor

If Sacha Baron Cohen wasn't Jewish, would everyone be up in arms about Borat? See, If he were non-Jewish and made the EXACT same movie, would it be any less funny or would the points about bigotry be any less salient? Fuck no! So why the hypocrisy yo?

Discuss please.

James Dolan, Knick owner/ Blues singer

Anyone else know James Dolan moonlights as a blues singer??? The shocker is he sounds the part! I am completely without speech..

Aside from being the de facto owner of the Knicks, he's also the chairman of Cablevision; which makes him one of the richest men in the world..and one of the worst owners in the NBA. As bad as Isiah Thomas has been as a front-office exec, his track record was a known quantity before he came to New York: underachieved as a coach with the Pacers, bankrupted the CBA, an inability to learn from his mistakes. But despite this knowledge, Dolan kept letting Isiah call the shots -- and now the Knicks are the most expensive laughingstock in sports. Yet, while the club around him burns, Dolan seems content to play the blissfully ignorant emperor, explaining little to his team's fans or the media while steadfastly supporting one of his least productive employees. All this before he boogies off to another gig with his Blues band, JD & the Straight Shot, at some New York dive.

Probe underway after crossbow fired onto pitch

I love crossbows. I'm going to buy one, when I can be assured that this kind of pursuit of material possessions is not a substitute for some sort of emotional deficit..

A police investigation has been launched after a crossbow bolt was fired into a stadium during a non-league match in Stockport yesterday, prompting the game's abandonment.

The incident occurred during the Unibond First Division game between Woodley Sports and Alsager Town, which the home side were leading 3-0 at the time.

With 13 minutes of the match remaining, the referee noticed something had been launched into Woodley's Lambeth Grove stadium and had become embedded in the artificial pitch.

Alsager chairman Graham McGarry, who was at the game, said: 'We wondered if it was a firework or something that had gone on that no-one else had seen.

'The referee had spotted something that had come down the ground. He brought the managers together with the object and brought the players together and marched them off, all within two minutes.

'We found out it was a two-foot steel arrow that was fired into the ground from outside.

'The police were called to the ground and the arrow was given to them for forensic examination.'

He added to Sky Sports News: 'This was a serious incident and could have been a tragedy. It whistled past the left-back of Woodley Sports.

'All the players were in agreement with the referee, you could not carry on. After one was fired they may have been set up outside the ground to fire more.

'It wasn't just the players, you don't know where they could have landed. There were children watching the game.'