james debate
james debate

Monday 29 September 2008

Well I don't know about you but it's been a long summer, waiting for the new television season to begin and for my favorite shows to come back. Particularly after the extra-lengthy break caused by the early suspension of last season due to the writer's strike. Well fortunately it's that time of year again and many of the top shows are returning.

So in this article we discuss which tv shows are returning that are worthy of keeping an eye on.

House (FOX)
Hit medical tv show entering it's fifth season. Starring Hugh Laurie of blackadder fame. Kicks serious ass. Season 5 has made a bold move in removing a key character, it remains to be seen how this will be received. With such top notch writing though hopes are high.
ETA: Already started

Entourage (HBO)
Stylish show about an actor in California and his friends from back home, living the outrageously sweet and flashy life we all wish we had. Seriously addicting, now entering it's fifth season. Lot's of celebrity cameos. New season has started in a similar fashion to how it ended, and that's a damn good thing, believe me.
ETA: Already started

Lost (ABC)
A show that really needs no introduction. If you know what this show is then its return will be one of the happiest moments of your life, and if you don't then you don't bother reading this. Now entering its fifth season.
ETA: January 1st 2009

Family Guy (FOX)
Edgy and hilarious cartoon that started off as a Simpsons rip off but has become so much more. Now entering its seventh season.
ETA: September 28th 2008

Heroes (NBC)
Thrilling super hero show which wowed the world with its first season and somewhat fizzled on the second, will the third season see a return to form? Sadly no. I'll try not to list any spoilers here but the debut was pretty terrible this year. It was semi enjoyable to watch... but the writing was atrocious at times, the characters were stupid and completely out of whack (particularly note Mohinder and Bennett in this episode), it felt like we were watching a fan-submitted script of the show. Filled with cringe moments and pure stupidity throughout, the final moments of the second episode made me want to smash my tv, worst writing i've seen in a tv show for years, it was forced, unnecessary and just generally cliché. This show will be dead if it doesn't turn things around, and fast.
ETA: Already started

Simpsons (FOX)
Legendary cartoon show that frankly everyone knows what it is. Now returning for it's 20th season.
ETA: September 28th 2008

Scrubs (ABC)
Quality medical tv show that has come back yet again from the verge of cancellation, now switching over to the ABC network for its 8th and likely final season (though we've heard that before). Not as amazing as it once was, still warrants a watch.
ETA: January/February 2009

the Cleveland show (FOX)
Brand new spin off from Family Guy starring fringe character Cleveland. On paper the worst idea ever, how will it pan out? Recently been delayed until next spring, a bad sign?
ETA: April 1st 2009 (maybe it's all an april fools joke? thatd be awesome)

Pushing Daisies (ABC)
Pure class, a show about a pie maker who can bring people back from the dead. Has a witty dark sense of humour and is directed like a Tim Burton wet dream. Definitely destined to be a hit.
ETA: 1st October 2008

Fringe (FOX)
New tv show from JJ Abrams, the creator of Lost and Cloverfield. Billed as the new X-files, it certainly packs a lot of style, remains to be seen how much substance it has to back that up in the long run. The pre-credits segment of episode 3 is one of the best openings I've seen on tv in a long time.
ETA: Already started

Ashes to Ashes (BBC)
Sequel series to the awesome Life on Mars. Not as good as its predecessor but still kicks the crap out of other English shows.
ETA: February 2009

Life on Mars US remake (HBO)
The original was pure class, one of the best shows ever. The early pilot of the remake was pure tripe and one of the most painful hours of my life. Nonetheless we wait patiently to see how the final product turns out. Don't hold your breath, but make sure to at least keep an eye on this one... for now...
ETA: October 9th 2008

As a Chelsea fan, I'd be lying if I said I was particularly worried by any of our title rivals so far this season.

Admittedly it is still very early days, but nonetheless. Arsenal losing at home to newly promoted hull, Liverpool failing to beat newly promoted Stoke at Anfield, and let's face it, have Manchester United played a single really decent game so far this season?

Arsenal have zero depth and their first team isn't even much to be wowed by. They've had a few exciting performances and positive write ups but come on, the toughest teams they've played so far are relegation-bound Newcastle, the biggest joke in English football, and a Blackburn side that looks a shadow of it's former self without Mark Hughes. Besides those two they've lost to Fulham and Hull and barely scraped a win against West Brom, hardly inspiriational so far.

United have not fired on all cylinders and the Berbatov signing looks a bit of a waste of money so far, but I think anyone who knows football will remember that they usually take a while to get going in the league, so given a few months I expect them to be challenging again.

Liverpool have been the strongest of the rivals so far, but even they haven't exactly looked dominant in their games against weaker opposition, and I very much doubt that many people (aside from the plethora of ex-Liverpool players working for Sky Sports) fancy them with much chance this season.

Meanwhile Chelsea... have been... well they've been good, and it's not something I've had the pleasure of seeing for quite some time. Ever since Mourinho's second Premier League triumph we've not looked the same all conquering dominant team that we were in those first two seasons. Now all of a sudden we're looking like a completely different team. Even the formerly crap players on the team are starting to pull their weight. Malouda in particular has been sensational in recent games. Kalou is suddenly a hot property being chased by Barcelona. Anelka is our current top scorer. Ashley cole has been the best form left back in the league for two years now and he is finally getting the credit for it. Mikel has shown himself to be one of the top defensive midfielders in Europe and a fantastic prospect for the future. Suddenly all these players are playing to the best of their abilities, in a way they never have before.

Before his arrival at Chelsea there was much talk in the media of 'the Scolari effect' where at every team he manages, the defining feature of his tenure is how he manages to motivate and get players to play at their top form, even people who often are known for underperforming. It is pretty apparent that we are seeing this effect now at Chelsea. On top of which, we really don't have any right to be playing so well with all the injuries we have. Deco, Carvalho, Drogba, Joe Cole, Kalou and Essien, all key players, the fact that we can cope without all these players just goes to show how insanely good the depth in the squad is.

And while I won't be so bold as to suggest that it'll last forever and see us win an unprecedented quadruple, I will ceetainly enjoy it while it lasts. Right now there is no team better, and all I can say is, it's good to be back at the top.

I have to admit, as a Democrat I was worried for a while after the RNC. It looked like, in finding Sarah Palin, the Republican party had found this year's 'iraq war' to manipulate impressionable undecided voters. But full respect to the American people, they have shown themselves to be far more astute than many give them credit for.

As I said in last week's blog, McCain needed to find a different way to try and pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat and shake up the election again, and this week he tried to do just that... the result? McCain is increasingly becoming a laughing stock, even among his own supporters. Ladies and gentlemen the comedy stylings of one John McCain:

Anyone reading this who has a clear memory of this past summer (which is probably very few of the republicans judging by their continued support of McCain's policies) will recall with some distaste how McCain attempted to milk the Georgian crisis for his own political gain with melodramatic, inaccurate, and wholly inappropriate speeches designed to appeal to the average oblivious American voter who were not even aware that Georgia is a country.

Well, being that this week started off with probably the worst thing that could ever have happened to the Republican campaign: the massive economic crisis which highlights McCain's complete cluelessness on the economy, as even McCain himself admits, McCain needed to find another gimmick to boost his numbers.

He had already done inappropriate melodrama with foreign policy. He had already done exploitative and cynical vice president choice. So where was he going to get a new thing to play with? Well this time he chose inappropriate melodrama with economics. Guess he must be running out of ideas huh?

McCain decided, out of the blue, to suspend his campaign in order to run out to Washington to save the day. He then also added his regular malarkey about how he had to bring bipartisan politics to a negotiation plagued by partisan politics.

Well for starters, the economic meltdown occurred Over a week ago when McCain was ahead in the polls. So why did McCain only decide a week later, when a solution was already close to being reached, that the crisis, being called the greatest since the great depression, was worthy of his attention? Surely it couldn't have anything to do with the fact that Obama had retaken the lead in the polls the day before this announcement?

On top of this one must look at McCain's absurd notion of bipartisan politics. For starters, by all accounts the negotiations in Washington surprisingly bipartisan and co-operative already, and indeed at the beginning of the week negotiators, both democrat and republicans, announced that an agreement had been reached. But sadly for everyone McCain got involved and turned the whole thing into a ridiculous public spectacle, demanding all eyes to be on him and painting himself as something of a saviour and brought the whole thing crashing down around him. What makes it even more laughable was that it was Obama who called McCain on Wednesday to propose making a joint statement on the economy. During this call McCain suggested postponing the debate and suspending campaigns (likely because he was losing) and when they disagreed, McCain said he would give Obama time to rethink it. Barely half an hour later McCain went live on tv to make a unilateral statement that he was suspending the campaign and cancelling the debate. And this is McCain's idea of bipartisan?

Sadly for McCain even this was not the end of it. Understandably considering everything that's been mentioned above ^ McCain's move was met with some serious criticism by the negotiators in Washington. Comments like "I think he's kind of grandstanding here" and criticisms of the fact that McCain can't multitask (after all a President might actually need to handle the economy and other things at the same time!). Conservative writer Matt Lewis described it as laughable, Senator Chuck Schumer, chairman of the senate banking committee, described the move as Just Weird and added that "We haven't heard hide nor hair of Sen. McCain in these negotiations. He has not been involved except for an occasional, unhelpful statement, sort of thrown from far away, and the last thing we need in these delicate negotiations is an injection of presidential politics." Needless to say, it's become something of a joke in Washington.

NB: even after this melodramatic joke, McCain's campaign was suspended for a grand total of around 12 hours, during which time his adverts were still running, his campaign offices were still open and active and he appeared in live television interviews when he was supposed to be in Washington 'saving the day'. Unbelievably after making such a big deal about suspending his campaign, he didn't actually 'do' anything. In fact considering he had no rallies or campaign meetings planned for those 12 hours there is not one single thing he did differently after 'suspending' his campaign, aside from the dramatic and expensive tv appearance where he declared what 'drastic' steps he was taking 'for the good of the country'.

This whole debacle has been a PR nightmare for McCain and has strained what little credibility he had left. I said it last week that if he keeps basing his entire campaign on risky 'shake up' moves then eventually it's going to backfire in a big way, and it seems to have done just that now.

After all this, McCain desperately needed a win in the first presidential debate on Friday (which he did attend in the end). The topic of the debate was on national security and foreign policy, an area that has long been regarded in the media and by the general populace as McCain's biggest strength, giving McCain the 'home field advantage' if you will. Considering this, anything less than a convincing win would be a disaster for McCain. This was his ace in the hole that he was expected to dominate, and he badly needed it now after the midweek shenanigans.

What we saw in the debate was something quite different though. The vast majority of polls, focus groups and media response have been declaring this debate as an Obama victory, as seen on CNN, The London Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Time Magazine, CBS News, and I think you're beginning to see the pattern here, so I'll leave it there. Crushingly for McCain the kindest things you see around the internet on credible sources are claims that he may have held Obama to a draw, just about, but frankly that won't be nearly good enough for him. McCain must surely now be asking himself, if he can't win there, where is he going to pick up points in the next 37 days?

The next presidential debate is on the economy, which as you know is McCain's weakest point, and one of Obama's stronger areas. Before that we have Biden vs Palin in the vice presidential debates, which is being predicted to be a blood bath as Sarah Palin continues to fail miserably in interviews. I don't know why anyone would expect a small time politician from a tiny town in a tiny state to have even a vague clue of what to say in such matters, and that's pretty much what you see in these interviews where she struggles and fails to recite memorized prose, one can only imagine how she'll fare in the debates where she has 5 minutes of open discussion with Biden.

It's generally assumed that this will be a painful failure for Republicans. McCain's campaign has been trying desperately to get rid of the open discussion between candidates (i wonder how they're trying to spin that?) and it should come as no surprise now that many people are speculating that Palin should drop out of the campaign. No doubt if that did happen that McCain would try to spin it as 'for family reasons'.

In conclusion, an already surreal election is being steered closer and closer to a complete farce by the increasingly risky and bizarre shenanigans of the McCain campaign. It may be too late for him now, but McCain really would be wise to cut it out and just run a normal election. Otherwise he risks losing his strained credibility, and in recent days it certainly seems like that's what's happening.

song of the day: "Human" by "The Killers"
thing that makes me smile today: This hilarious new advert from Diesel.
pic of the day:
ephemeric compass travel
The Killers


Sunday 21 September 2008

And here I am, back in London again from my travels in Champagne, a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and packing some 20 odd bottles of the world's finest champagne and 24 half bottles, a stock that will last a good few years until I go back to the region.

champagne ephemeric billecart-salmon gratien

Why do I need so much? Well many of these bottles you can't get in this country, and the ones you can cost ridiculous amounts of money. I'm a guy who likes to have a stash of such things at the ready for when I have company and guests over and right now I have a pretty damn fine collection of champagne to share with friends and that special someone.

As such I have decided to run the rule over the various champagne houses I visited during my stay and tell you whether or not they're worth your time and money. Enjoy!

1. Locret-Lachaud
Small, simple champagne house, inexpensive and unremarkable.
The basic brut is about average, but the milleseme (vintage) is the strongest effort from this factory, above average and still very affordable.
Verdict: Moët-Chandon't

2. Prevoteau-Perrier
A small family business, this factory really has a very special personal touch and homemade feeling. We were given a tour of the place and enjoyed an overview of the bottling floor and the cellars underneath. Personally I enjoyed the tasting of freshly squeezed grape juice, as anyone who knows me knows i adore the stuff, only wish champagne companies would start selling it!
Very good value. Prevoteau is very affordable and also very good quality. The brut is decent as is the rosé and milleseme, but the highlight is the Adrienne, a sweet and very easy drinking champagne named after a local french actress.
Verdict: Moët-Chando

3. Billecart-Salmon
Willecart-Wonka's champagne factory. Always a favorite of mine. The true connoisseurs will tell you to forget the big over-hyped names of moët-chandon, krug and perrier-jouer and go for Billecart. Truly magnificent, if often a little pricey, but not in the same outrageous price bracket as the aforementioned hype machines.
The Brut is very good for a basic brut, and the rosé is an absolute classic, one of my all time favorite champagnes for general usage. Going beyond this though, the blanc de blancs, made from 100% chardonnay, is absolutely top notch for a standard champagne. The vintage bottles from this factory, however, are truly top class, the 'Elizabeth' is the vintage rosé which is truly exceptional, as is the vintage blanc de blancs. What we weren't able to try during our visit, however, are the rarer, ultra special champagnes, the grande cuvee and st hilaire, which are both only produced on truly exceptional years and cost ridiculous sums of cash.
The tour, bigger than the mom & pop business of prevoteau but not as big as the over the top shenanigans at the likes of moët-chandon, contained more than just a small hint of willy wonka's chocolate factory, with playful architecture and lavishly big and beautiful garden. Oompa-loompas were conspicuously absent.
Verdict: Moët-Chando

4. Champagne de Castellane
Another smallish company which has taken a gamble in not investing any money in customer visits, seating large numbers of people in a big empty warehouse and selling champagne glasses for tastings, as opposed to giving them away for free like most other places.
It doesn't help that the champagne, frankly, was underwhelming, in fact below average compared to some of the other houses in the area. It is easy to see why they have to charge for tastings, I guess not enough people buy to make free glasses worth their while.
Verdict: Moët-Chandon't you dare

5. Alfred Gratien
Another midsized factory, it had always been an ambition of mine to try champagne from here, as I often see it on menus at more expensive restaurants.
I was not disappointed, a very decent brut to start off with was surpassed by the milleseme, a very tasty champagne with an absolutely heavenly fragrance of honey, definitely the best smelling champagne of the trip.
Worth noting that there was another step up in their champagnes, to the special Paradis label, which i unfortunately didn't try here, but we bought one, so stay tuned and i'll get back to you on that.
Verdict: Moët-Chando

6. Mercier
The Disneyland of champagne factories, this one was certainly the best laugh. Both pretentious and ridiculous, the tour began with a film presentation that reminded me very much of the opening segments of the 'star tours' and 't2' rides at disney and universal studios respectively. This then continued with a very long elevator ride into the cellars, complete with cheesy and pretentious displays visible through large viewing windows, which are apparently vital to the story of how the factory is founded. The ensuing parade of hot air balloons, dusty taverns full of animatronic people and small model villages really had the feeling of pirates of the caribbean, I was expecting the 'yo ho a pirates life for me' jingle to break out at any moment. Best of all was the small train that took us through the cellars, so pointlessly over the top, i had never seen that before.
It was worth the visit just to see these hilarious eccentricities, but how did the champagne itself taste? It was ok. It was very very simple, easy drinking champagne. Smooth but unremarkable. As one of my more esteemed colleagues put it; perfect champagne for mixing into cocktails. Not very expensive and fairly good, this champagne makes a business on affordable, decent champagne, and that's why they can afford all these bells and whistles.
Verdict: Moët-Chando, just for the theme park that comes before the tasting

Debbie award for Best Bottle of Champagne: Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs vintage
Runner Up: Alfred Gratien Milleseme

Just a quick note of apology to all users of iFooty who are peeved at the loss of the fixtures list in the app.

I'm sure many of you are aware of the rather strict rules with regards to usage of the list of dates that constitutes football fixtures, indeed any fans of football manager will likely be all too familiar with these issues.

It's a shame for sure. Still, que sera sera.

For now the page has been altered with what I think is a rather sharp looking replacement screen.

Rest assured work is being done on the next version, stay tuned.

First of all, how funny is the whole Sarah Palin email stuff?

I was going to post some screens up here but it seems like some people are getting in trouble for doing that so I decided against it. I know it's a horrible thing, and I should feel sorry for her, but quite frankly that's what you get if you're a big time politician and you're dumb enough to exchange sensitive emails on a personal yahoo account!

It's like watergate except this time people barely had to lift a finger to find out what shenanigans Palin has been up to. I hope they picked up an interesting tidbit or two about her corrupt goings on with the whole brother-in-law trooper debacle.

So meanwhile polls have returned to where they were right before the conventions, Obama a couple of % ahead of McCain.

3 Weeks of media hacks talking about how Obama's convention bounce meant McCain was dead, and then trying to explain the 'tactical genius' at McCain's convention that gave him the lead for the first time all year.

And now that Obama has retaken the lead everyone is trying to analyze why that might be. What rubbish, just the news networks trying to milk the election and get viewers. Campaigns always have a brief bounce after their conventions, it's as simple as that. Obama had his, McCain had his, and now it's all returned back to how it was before, where's the mystery?

Don't get me wrong, i'm sure McCain's complete economic cluelessness has had some effect on the current polls, and McCain's cynical and shameless selection of Sarah Palin helped boost his profile in recent weeks. But there is absolutely no doubt that the polls were always going to fluctuate now thanks to the convention.

So let's not try and read too much into the poll numbers right now ok?

In any case it looks like McCain is going to have a hard time staying afloat right now with all this economic turmoil. Very hard luck for him, but essentially every economic principle he has supported in his campaign has now been blamed for this crash, the biggest since the great depression. Considering he has already been quoted as admitting he know's nothing about the economy this looks very bad for him for this to be highlighted so dramatically this week.

Of course considering McCain seems to change his policies fairly regularly to match whatever will get him the most votes, this might not be a problem for him, all he has to do is suddenly support economic regulation for the first time in his 800 year career... oh wait, he already did that this week. I can only hope that the majority of voters going to the polls on November 4th have a memory span of longer than 20 minutes, and judging by Obama's increasing lead in the polls that looks like it may actually be the case.

song of the day: "Ladyflash" by "The Go! Team"
thing that makes me smile today: Manchester United being owned partially by the US government.
pic of the day, if they do half as bad a job running the club as they did running the country then it'll be a good year for Chelsea fans.
james debate games sonic halo mario zelda
Law and Order
Americans regaining a modicum of self respect

The one or two Americans who still like Palin

Saturday 13 September 2008

Will Wright is the legendary face of videogames design studio Maxis, now a part of evil empire Electronic Arts.

He is the man credited with pretty much inventing the 'sim' genre, and was the brains behind all the 'sim city' games and 'the sims' games.

Now, in his most ambitious project to date, Wright has attempted to create a game that successfully combines elements from all his old games, and other classics such as civilization.

The above photo shows my own creation, the Ephemeric race :)

More than that though, Spore is a game that offers some of the most amazing creation tools in any game, and far more user friendly than any normal 3d graphics tool.

In Spore, you design a creature from scratch, using what can best be described as a computerized clay modeling system. Clearly i'm simplifying it a bit, but that should give you an idea of what it's like. As you can imagine this gives you an unprecedented level of freedom with which to design your creature.

Once you've done this you can take this creation of yours from a tiny amoeba like cell stage, to the creature stage where you migrate onto land and attempt to survive in the wild, to the tribal stage when the first signs of intelligence in your species begins to show, then the civilization stage where you complete the conquest of your homeworld. Lastly comes the real meat of the game, the space stage, where you leave your home planet... and you find a galaxy full of thousands and thousands of stars, each with their own planets, many of them with their own life forms on it. It's fucking huge.

On top of this, most of the other life forms you encounter in the galaxy are unique creations by other players like you, downloaded automatically from the spore servers. And if that wasn't enough you also design vehicles, spaceships and buildings in a clay modeler similar to the creature creator.

There is no question that the creative tools on offer here are anything short of a technical miracle. The simplicity and (unusually) the complexity capable is absolutely remarkable and offer plenty of fun for creatively minded individuals in themselves. However Spore won't be a success unless the game itself is up to snuff. So the question is, how does it play?

Well the first stage is quite entertaining, an addictive arcade style game that you'll enjoy on your first playthrough, but let's face it, probably won't compel you to return and replay it over and over.

The second stage is pretty key, as it is the part of the game where you really design your creature and decide how he's going to look for the rest of eternity. It plays like a standard 3rd person action game with a few mini games here and there. Sadly these mini games feel a little bit weak and half assed and become tedious quite quickly. On the bright side though, this mode is far deeper than you realize upon first glance. For example during your play through you encounter signs that there are intelligences greater than your own at play. UFO sightings are common, strange lights in the sky, and you will occasionally run into things like meteor showers and 'supersized' creatures, all things that you can do in space mode. What all this does is offer a glimpse of the scale of this game, that even while you play creature mode and explore a planet that, at the time, seems huge and daunting, there is much, much more going on around you.

Next you have tribal mode, which plays like a mixture of the sims and games like populous. This is probably the weakest mode, though I still enjoyed it simply because it was the first moment that your creature, who by that point you've become quite attached to, starts to show glimpses of what he'll be capable of one day, the stage where he starts to master the world around him and offer some complexity to the game.

Civilization mode is like a mix of command and conquer, sim city and civilization, except very simplified. For example you can only make 3 different types of buildings, and 3 types of vehicles per city, one land vehicle, one boat and one airplane. This extreme simplicity might put off some hardcore gamers but for those like me who are simply caught up in the evolution of your creation, it will be an entertaining and rewarding era, if a little brief.

But of course, as I said, space mode is really the meat and potatoes of the game. It plays like a real time version of galactic civilization or master of orion, mixed with other completely unique elements such as terraforming planets, trading (a bit like elite) and still maintaining some of the sim city-esque elements. It is so absurdly huge that it takes a moment just to sit back and marvel at how incredible it is, and it is indeed a marvel that something so big and in depth has been created and actually WORKS.

This brings me to the bad side of the game. You will note that despite my generally glowing review so far I dropped a star fro the score below. This game could well have warranted 4.5 or 5 out of 5, but it falls short at one mark and this is why. It doesn't work all that well right now.

It MAY be the case that in the near future it will be patched and will work well, which is why i didn't deduct more from the score, but right now it is simply a very buggy ordeal. There are many many people out there reporting bugs, crashes, lock ups, and data corruptions all over the shop, as well as serious errors involving DRM and connection to the Spore servers and ea game store.

Personally I didn't encounter any problems until the space mode, and even then not until several hours into that stage. But when I did, boy did i get hit hard. After like 20 hours of effort put into my creature the game simply corrupted itself, and I had to start all over again. It would have been heart breaking if i hadnt had the foresight to back up my save games (i learned not to trust maxis with such things after similar incidents with the sims).

On top of this space mode crashes constantly, and there is no autosave. So if you do get this game make sure you save frequently and also make sure you backup your save games. alternatively just wait a few days or weeks until a patch comes out.

This however, for me, was not enough to significantly detract from what is otherwise an absolutely landmark game, a masterstroke, and once the bugs are sorted, and unmissable experience.


As anyone who knows me will confirm, i'm not one to keep my mouth shut when faced with the ongoing absurdity of the idiots that run my beloved Chelsea Football Club.

In recent years we've seen insane personal disputes amongst higher ups tear the club apart mid-season, we've seen terrible nepotistic signings and appointments of completely under-qualified sycophants.

For the first time in a long time, I was pleased with the running of the club this summer. The handling of our new managerial appointment was well handled (aside from the timing of the announcment) and our early transfer dealings went by without a hitch. It looked like the suits at Chelsea had finally started to get it right. Sadly I was wrong. They've changed alright, but not for the right reasons.

In retrospect one has to look back at the appointment of Scolari as Chelsea manager and wonder, why then?

It seems like the timing, right in the middle of a big international tournament which Scolari is working in, was very poorly chosen. Surely they knew that such a badly timed announcement would lead to conflicts of interest in the Portuguese national team and negatively impact upon their performances.

The reason is, they were desperate. Chelsea had been handling the manager search competently and diligently, but the gossip columns and tabloid scum were having a field day exploiting the situation with Chelsea gossip, a surefire way to guarantee readers. More than that, when gossip started to dry up and people weren't buying the new bullshit that these people were coming up with, they decided to paint a different picture, that the reason there was new gossip was because the Chelsea manager search was a shambles, because no one wanted to work for the club or simply because they couldn't stop bickering amongst themselves long enough to pick someone.

Of course, this was absolutely not true, they simply were going through the process professionally and quietly and not leaking anything to the news. But clearly they were getting stressed and upset with all the tabloid hackery and the only way to dismiss it all and clear their names would be to release word of the appointment as soon as it was a done deal, and so, desperate, that's exactly what they did, with little regard for the other consequences.

Similarly let's turn our attention to the activity at the end of the summer. Robinho signing for Chelsea was essentially a done deal, but for the last minute investment into Manchester City and the ensuing competing bid, a bid that was higher than Chelsea's. Chelsea then refused to match this bid and that is what has led to Robinho going to Manchester City. But why? Why would free spending Chelsea suddenly be unwilling to spend the money required to get their man? that never used to be the case.

Again the answer is, they were responding to tabloid hackery which used to criticize chelsea for their excessive spending.

This pattern repeats constantly throughout Abramovich's tenure at Chelsea. When he arrived no one in the media thought Chelsea could attract big names, so Roman went out and paid top dollar for big names. Then they were being criticized for spending so much, so Roman stops. When chelsea were criticized for playing boring football, they completely restructured the team and pushed for more exciting football.

At every step of the way, Chelsea are simply pandering as a small attempt to answer media criticisms.

So what's wrong with that? Quite frankly it shows a complete naivete and rank amateurism within the Chelsea ownership, first of all to care so much about media perception that they prioritize this pandering above even club success.

But most of all, it shows a complete lack of understanding and experience to think that you can actually respond to criticisms like this and please the critics by changing yourself. It presumes that these critics actually mean what they say and that they are actually making a genuine criticism of something, which simply isn't the case.

Anyone who has been following football more than a few years will remember when Arsenal were the best team in England, and by far the least popular. Half a decade earlier and Manchester United were the most hated and successful team in the country. Before that it was Liverpool, and by now I think you see the pattern?

Half the people in the media who write this crap about why Chelsea are evil aren't really expressing an opinion, they're simply doing what has always been in our nature to do. Throughout football history the best team in the country has always been the most hated, and that is precisely what caused this animosity towards Chelsea. Keen observers of the media will even note a more positive slant in the last two seasons since Chelsea fell behind Man United, and an increasingly negative angle against United.

And yet, still a very strong dislike for Chelsea remains. Why should this be when even the media is starting to leave them alone?

English football is far bigger today than it has ever been in the past, largely due to the massive influx of money into the league, partially thanks to Chelsea, partially thanks to the burgeoning television side of the sport and increased marketing. With this increased success comes new fans, younger fans, people who otherwise wouldn't be interested in football, suddenly jumping on the bandwagon just because it's 'cool'.

Sadly I know far too many people in my day to day life who are like this, people who until a year or two ago didn't follow football at all but now have gone in head first and painted themselves as 'hardcore' fans. These are people who never knew that Arsenal used to be hated rather than admired, and Man U, and Liverpool before them. People who have grown into the sport knowing nothing besides a dislike for Chelsea and thinking that that was simply the traditional way things were in football. These idiots now make up the bulk of irrational Chelsea haters, criticizing their football no matter what they play like, their money no matter how frugal they are, and slagging off players no matter how well they play, and they do this, simply because they think they're 'fitting in' and because they've never known any other way in football and have gotten used to it. It may interest those people to know that Man U and Arsenal were also once referred to as 'boring' and that Chelsea are actually not even in the top 5 big spenders in the league this year.

It pleases me to speak to any real football fan who has been following the sport for years who acknowledges all this, as I imagine all moderately intelligent people with an understanding of people will also concede. But frankly I think it's time for these overgrown children to grow up.

On top of this Chelsea need to open their eyes and get their head screwed on straight. Kenyon of all people should recognize what's really going on here, which leads me to believe he's slightly playing the sycophant to Roman and his American buddies who now run the club, as he has shown himself to be doing in recent times.

song of the day: "Walking on a Dream" by "Empire of the Sun"
thing that makes me smile today: Finding out that McCain's big speech on how 'different' he is to Bush is actually mostly plagiarized from Bush's own speech.
pic of the day:
spore ephemeric game maxis will wright
Russian Oil Money
Chewing off my own arm, relatively speaking

the Sims
Arab Oil Money
Listening to Sarah Palin's voice, relatively speaking

Wednesday 3 September 2008

Well it's that time of year again. Football Manager is a videogame that every single year comes and draws millions into it's simple, beautiful-game-centric obsession. Relationships are broken up, jobs are lost and lives are enveloped by those who get sucked into what is time and time again one of the top selling games on any system every single year.

For those who have not yet been sucked into the abyss, Football Manager allows you to create your own manager and enter him into the big bad world of professional football management. You can take over any club team in almost any league in the world and you can lead whole nations, you can take amateur local clubs to european glory or take a premiership giant and create a legacy that will last for decades. A game can last years, decades, you can sign the world stars to your favorite team or you can nurture and raise local kids. This game, despite the lack of visual gloss, is the closest you will ever come to the real world of football glory, both the highs and the lows.

And now it is time for the most recent version to make an appearance.

football manager 2009

So I'll bet the reason you're really here is to find out what's new this year. Well I won't disappoint. Well just a few minutes ago it was announced to the world what the key headline features would be.

The first one is Assistant Manager feedback, where your assistant manager during a match will feedback to you on a variety of matters, from player motivation to team cohesion and tactical analysis. And obviously the better stats your assistant manager has the better and more valid his feedback will be.

The next big update is with regards to the media. Now there will be press conferences, which you face before and after a game and on your first day on the job. This is more than just simple Q&A, you also have to build relationships with the journalists, who will remember the answers you give to certain questions and may come back to haunt you. There is also a 'transfer rumour' page now which discusses rumoured transfers that are going ahead, some will be accurate and some complete bollocks just like real gossip columns. On top of this the general media and news items have been increased and enhanced to reflect the increasing influence the media has on the game.

Next we have some big improvements on training. Now you can train players in performing certain moves, giving players a bit more personality and individuality as in real life. On top of this certain players will be more keen in training and stay behind to work harder and improve themselves.

Big news for female gamers, you can now play as a female manager, a very big step in the game in introducing female players. Perhaps slightly unrealistic in a sport which doesn't have female managers but no doubt a big one in diversifying the game's audience. Perhaps this is simply the first step in bringing in women's football for future versions?

Other refinements on old features include an expansion and improvement of the club confidence screen, now including a 'team harmony' and 'team stature' rating as well as a more streamlined design.

There is also an increased adherence to real world economics and financial matters in each and every league across the world to add realism to the game.

Further more we have a revamped interface, more streamlined and for the first time featuring widescreen support.

The transfer has been completely ripped out and rewritten this year. This should ensure that the shortlisting model has been more accurate and efficient.

And LASTLY, the big one you've all been waiting for. The match engine is now in proper 3D. The demos we have been shown so far are supposedly about 50% finished and I can assure you it looks absolutely amazing and will truly change the way this game is played, whilst not being so overwhelming that you need to go and buy a more powerful computer to run it. Meanwhile the 2D engine has been left in the game for those of you who don't want to use the new engine.

On top of this the match interface has been redone. You can now use a special 'tv' view which lets you watch the game and pull up individual dashboard-esque widgets like stats, live table and whatnot which can be overlaid on top of the match view.

It all looks incredible and November can't come soon enough!

Well whatever twisted method of motivation my taskmaster of a driving instructor employed in teaching me to drive has clearly worked. James Debate is now legally able to drive, and it's about damn time.

Now begins the long and painful deliberation of what car I want to get. Thinking about what I will be using it for in the near future I guess the most crucial thing is to get something small and easy to drive and park around central London, which as any driver knows is a real pain in the ass.

On top of this everyone knows of my liberal tendencies when it comes to the environment, and as such a car which produces less pollution is appealing. It is even more appealing when you realize that owning such a car makes you exempt from the London congestion charges, one of the more evil inventions of the British Government in recent years.

It recently occurred to me that a good way to meet both these wishes would be to jump on the electric car bandwagon. Indeed the industry has been gathering pace in recent years with the increasingly common realization around the world that switching to such green cars are very important for our future, both for reasons of the environment and in decreasing our dependence on drilling or procuring foreign oil.

electric green car

But despite this the idea of buying an electric car still has not quite caught on in the general public for a variety of reasons. They have a limited capacity for distance traveling, they can be expensive and require frequent recharging and buying of new batteries. And quite frankly, I live in a 3rd floor flat, how the heck am I going to plug my car into the mains and charge it up?

Well Shai Agassi, CEO of Better Place thinks he has a plan that will see an electric car in every driveway within the next few years. How will he accomplish this?

The plan, taken straight out of the cellular provider handbook, is to sell electric cars with a monthly fee that will cover the cost of the car and the energy to fuel it, signing up for a certain number of miles per month.

Project: Better Place, for which Agassi has raised $200 million to fund, hopes to create a world where charging stations are installed in parking lots and other locations all over the roads so drivers can leave their car to charge when not in use. Further more he plans to introduce exchange stations which allow for quick and easy switching of dead batteries for fresh ones.

This setting up of an electric grid for cars will enable anyone to own one easily and relatively cheaply and will address the key limitation of electric cars, their short range.

With this plan the hope is that we can look forward to a reduced dependence on oil, and a vastly reduced output of pollutants and waste, all in the fairly near future. On top of this it will be affordable, more so than other forms of alternative energy like hydrogen fuel, especially as the infrastructure for distribution of electric charing points is already in place from our current household electrical grid.

While the system may not be perfect yet, this has certainly given me something to think about, so don't be surprised if you see me cruising around in my wholesome green car sometime soon.

song of the day: "Forever Young F.A.F Remix" by "Alphaville"
thing that makes me smile today: This hilarious take on the increasingly ironic debacle that is the pick of Sarah Palin as McCain's Vice President.
pic of the day:
ghost busters casper james debate
Electric Cars

Destroying the environment

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