james debate
james debate

Saturday 29 May 2010

On Sunday night, tv show Lost bid its final farewell, with a simultaneous showing in both USA/UK, which I was lucky/stupid enough to stay up for. It's been 6 long and wonderful years and I for one hate goodbyes. There will be massive spoilers from the outset so do not read this if you have yet to see the finale.

lost the end

Let's begin by taking a moment to reflect on the fact that this show is now over. This is actually a very strange feeling after so many years of getting to know these characters and the mythology of this show, trying to put all the pieces together and hypothesise about the mysteries. Now all that is over, we won't be getting any more answers and we won't see any more of these characters.

So to summarise, the central plot line of the show goes something like this:

There is a special island powered by an enigmatic underground electromagnetic energy, which appears to be connected to all the many weird and magical things we've seen happen on the island. Since the dawn of time curious and destructive human beings have sought to acquire and understand this energy and have come to the island for this purpose, the Egyptians, the Romans, the US Army, Dharma, and probably many more. It is the job of the Island's guardian to ensure that this energy remains safe and untarnished, or else all hell breaks loose.

Jacob is one in a long line of island guardians, having had a difficult childhood and growing up with massive insecurity and inferiority issues, particularly with regards to his brother who is "special", who gets to pick the rules when they play Senet, and is favoured to rule over the island. This nameless brother doesn't want the job and vows to destroy the island in order to get off of it, an act which will apparently destroy the world. This leaves Jacob as the only one left who can take the role. Now Jacob is the "special" one making the rules, and as his first act as guardian of the island, he foolishly lashes out at his brother in anger, and the smoke monster is born.

After trying for centuries in vain to prove to his brother than Humans aren't all bad and deserve to survive, summoning various groups of people, Jacob realises that it is only a matter of time before his determined brother finds a way to kill him and get off the island. So Jacob endeavours to find a successor, identifying a list of people who like him are alone, with their own issues and a need for meaning in life. He summons them to the island in Oceanic flight 815.

Through a long, complicated series of manipulations and misdirection, Jacob's brother manages to build Locke up as the saviour of the island, gets him killed, takes his form and uses that form to manipulate Ben into killing Jacob. After 6 seasons of Lost, smokey's plan to escape is finally coming to fruition. Long story short, these candidates manage to stop smokey by "switching off" the energy that gives him his power and save the island, Hurley becomes the new king of the island, and all but 6 main characters (three from the original flight 815) die or remain on the island.

The last thing we see is all our characters meeting up in the afterlife after each of them has died at some indeterminate point in time. There is plenty more story in the show, character backstories, conflict between the losties and "the others", but at the end of the day this is the central story of Lost. Philosophical questions have been raised and discussed, from the concept of "fate" to the redemptive capacity of man: we have seen the "man of science" Jack reform into the ultimate sacrificial "man of faith", we have seen no good conman Sawyer redeem himself by becoming a selfless hero, and many other stories of redemption.

Undoubtedly the thing that will divide fans and get everybody talking is the end of the final episode, the last 5 minutes which turned pretty much everything on its head by revealing the "flash-sideways", a narrative device introduced in the final season, to be some kind of purgatory in which all the central characters from Lost meet each other and cross over to the other side. This is apparently because there is some deep connection between all these characters; these are the people who matter most to each other in the entire world, and the time they knew each other on the island (about 3 years including the time they spent off the island) was apparently the most meaningful time in their lives.

Longtime fans bemoaned the lack of answers, and apologists pointed out that the intention was to focus on the characters rather than the mythology. Unfortunately I'm not sure the ending really works in either of these regards.

In terms of answers, well clearly there are a lot of classic Lost mysteries which have not been addressed at all, or chalked up to a special "magic" with, at best, roots in pseudo science based around some electro-magnetic energy. Worse still, the show had, up until the finale, been hinting at some kind of alternate timeline interaction which could potentially have offered answers for many of these mysteries, like how Locke was able to walk after crashing on the Island, and yet right at the last the writers chose to bring in this purgatory angle from right out of left-field.

Now I can live without answers to many of these questions, I'm happy to accept a little bit of sci-fi mumbo-jumbo, but to take a decent plot direction with the potential to wrap everything up nicely and ditch it just for the sake of one final big twist seems awfully arbitrary, and incredibly unsatisfying. It also makes much of what we've seen in the show, especially in the past season, completely pointless. Faraday's theories? pointless. The island underwater? pointless. The concept of bleeding between timelines that would have explained Locke, Sun losing her ability to speak English, and many other things? Fuck that. The hydrogen bomb going off? Turned out to be a complete red herring. In retrospect, however, it's a perfect microcosm of the show as a whole, which I'll explain in a minute.

Meanwhile, even in terms of an ending for these characters it leaves much to be desired. First of all I'm not a big fan of the whole "here's everyone after they've died" ending to begin with, after investing so much emotionally in these characters you hope for a bigger payoff at the end, but Locke (real Locke) came back to life with a whimper and barely a line or two of dialogue, Charlie had about 5 seconds with Claire and Aaron, and Penny didn't even get to speak a single line in this episode. Personally I would have loved to see a final epic philosophical scene between Locke and Jack, as we have so often seen throughout the show. That would have been the perfect ending for the show, but they just didn't have the time. I guess that's the problem with having so many characters in this show.

In terms of giving us closure, this ending is somewhat unsettling. For starters 6 of these characters get off the Island and live the rest of their lives, possibly decades, and yet they still come back to spend their afterlife with the losties. For example Kate might have lived another 50 years, and apparently never had a family, or friends, or any significant relationship, living the rest of her life without any apparent meaning. This to me is quite an upsetting ending. In addition, what of the children? Charlie, Aaron, Ji Yeon? We see Charlie and Claire enter the afterlife with Aaron as a baby... is this really Aaron, now spending his afterlife in limbo as a baby? Or, like Jack's "son" David, is this merely an artificial image of him derived from their minds, in which case these parents won't be spending the afterlife with their children. Either way this is a very sad ending, offering no closure for characters who died on the island and never got to know their kids.

Now I don't mind sad endings, per se, but this is being played as a big happy reunion type ending, when all I can see is a collection of shattered lives and relationships, torn apart by what happened on the island. There permeates an almost nihilistic sense that most of these people lost all these things for no reason, dying completely without purpose or redemption. Locke's backstory was that he was used and manipulated his entire life, and this is exactly how he died, being manipulated by smokey. He gets no redemption, and neither do many other characters like Faraday, who from what we can tell was a bit of an overblown buffoon with nonsense theories on timelines which never amounted to anything. The writers so meticulously wrote these fantastic character arcs, and then didn't bother to resolve most of them.

In fairness, I don't think this was a "bad" finale. On the contrary it was excellent television, an absolutely breathtaking 2 and a half hours with some truly epic moments. Jack's final confrontation with smokey was brilliant, as was the scene of his death. Charlie's reunion with Claire, more than any other scene, brought a tear to my eye, probably since it had been so many years since we've seen them two together. Up until the last 5 minutes I had considered this to be a triumph of a finale. But that ending, the final few minutes, seems to be a completely unnecessary twist, nonsensical and a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion for these characters we have known for so long. It was a big final twist for the sake of it, which as I noted earlier is entirely typical for this show.

Ultimately, Lost was a victim of its own success, and specifically its own notoriety for creating intriguing, engrossing mysteries. It wasn't just a matter of writing a show where the viewers never had any idea what was going on, the crucial element was the drip feed of subtle clues. The show was presented to us like a jigsaw puzzle, one which almost compulsively had viewers trying to piece it all together and figure it out... the revelation that none of these mysteries had actual answers, that the writers had only a vague idea of what was going on, was a bitter sting indeed. The writers recognised this fact too, and in order to keep ratings high, they piled on new characters and mysteries to endlessly keep us in the dark.

They worked themselves into a bit of a mess, where there was no way they would be able to tie the story together, and no way they could ever stop adding new mysteries, for fear of low ratings. The result is that the plot became a convoluted mishmash of different ideas and concepts, and anyone can see in the last few seasons that the writers really struggled to keep coming up with new twists and mysteries. Hence when it came to the big finale, they pretty much HAD to bring in a big final twist in order to live up to the precedent set in previous successful seasons.

Time constraint was also a major issue. Following criticism that that the show wasn't going anywhere and that they were "making it up as they went along" the network pressured them to set a deadline for their show after 6 years so that they could start writing towards an ending. But this didn't work out so well. The writers just kept piling more and more characters and mysteries and twists and it was only as they got towards the final seasons that they realised they would have to somehow tie it up, an impossible task by that point. As a result they simply didn't have the time to expand on the story as much as they could have. So many characters have incomplete backstories. Who was the young girl Ben knew as a child and why did he carry around her doll for the rest of his life? What was the deal with Faraday's random crying and the card game Charlotte played with him? What role did Eloise Hawking play and what was the deal with her "time cop" act? Libby in the insane asylum one minute, then working for Widmore and giving Desmond a free boat the next? These are all plot points that the writers at one point claimed were absolutely central for those characters, but due to time constraints, only 6 seasons and only a limited number of episodes in some of those seasons, they simply were never able to expand upon.

The writers say that they are grateful that they were able to make this show "the way they wanted", but that clearly is not the case. They were bullied into slapping a timeframe and rushing the ending, they were pressured by ratings and fan hype to keep the exciting mysteries and twists coming, and they were intimidated into not even trying to tie all the loose plot threads together. This isn't the show they envisioned, this is just a hole they dug themselves into, and then tried to take the safest route out.

Ultimately, as much as I adore Lost, I can't help but look at much of it as wasted potential. All the carefully placed easter eggs and details which at the time looked like hints, but never amounted to anything. All the character plots alluded to but never expanded upon. All the time wasted on frankly uninteresting, and as it turned out, relatively unimportant things. Back in season 2 or 3 it all hinted at some grand symphony of plot, something which promised an almighty payoff at the end. But really we didn't get any of that, we just got the very basic character narrative (vaguely, and not particularly neatly) resolved. Everything else that (we thought) we saw, turns out it was just smoke and mirrors.

Saturday 22 May 2010

song of the week: "Go Outside" by "Cults"

thing that makes me smile today: Chelsea's double winning team.

pic of the day
walken dancin
Wenlock & Mandeville
Brandon Flowers

Sumi, Quatchi & Miga
The Killers

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Developed by Remedy Entertainment
Published by Microsoft Game Studios
Genre Psychological thriller
Platform Xbox 360
Release date(s) Out Now

It's finally here. Alan Wake is the latest game from developers Remedy, who you may know as the creators of Max Payne and the fathers of 'bullet time' which has since become a staple of action games. It has also been in development for a long time; first announced at E3 2005, but purportedly in development since 2001. A prolonged development time in addition to a large amount of hype ensure that the pressure is on for Remedy to deliver.

mass effect 2

The setting is Bright Falls, a quaint but backwards town in the middle of the picturesque Pacific Northwest of the United States. It is here that washed up writer Alan Wake makes a retreat along with his wife from the hectic big city lifestyle, hoping to find inspiration and break his writer's block. But of course, all is not as it seems, as Bright Falls carries a dark secret.

During the day time all is well, but as soon as night falls things start to get unpleasant as it slowly transpires that Wake's writings are coming true. Is Alan Wake going insane, or is the town really being sucked into the abyss by his own fictional creations? Either way, all will be well as long as you stay in well lit surroundings. Should be easy enough, right?

Alan Wake employs an inventive gameplay mechanic based around light and dark. As long as you remain in bright, well lit surroundings nothing can harm you, but as soon as the lights go out, or you venture out into the shadows, dark apparitions known as "the taken" will come for you. Just as you can not be harmed in the light, they can not be defeated in the dark. Instead, the player must use flashlights, flares and other sources of light to dispel their "darkness" so that you can take them out. In addition players have a 'dodge' button at their disposal to avoid enemy attacks. You will need this as the game wears on, with increasingly large groups of enemies assaulting you in often increasingly close quarters, but beware, it is very iffy, requiring delicately precise timing and positioning, something you don't really have the luxury of perfecting in later levels.

Generally speaking, these mechanics are well tuned, and once you get the hang of it it can be very satisfying to play. However over the course of the several hours it takes to complete the game, a few issues become apparent.

For starters, the game often has difficulty deciding whether it wants to be a horror game or an action game. The early levels lean more towards the former, focusing more on atmosphere and chills, with only a small finite number of enemies to defeat, but later levels turn into a veritable onslaught of respawning bad guys. The gameplay mechanics are finely balanced in those early levels, but just too sluggish when it comes to the carnage towards the end.

Enemies are very quick and some are quite strong, able to kill you in just two or three blows. So late on in the game it can be very frustrating when multiple enemies keep respawning right next to you in the dark and pouncing on you before you have anything like enough time to react, and it's especially an issue when you consider the fussy nature of the dodge function, the slow transitions between animations, and the often clunky weapons system (slow reload times, does not automatically reload when you switch weapons or pick up ammo for an empty gun, clunky weapons select menu, etc). But the worst culprit is the camera. Even in the best of times the camera can become stuck behind objects and obscure your view, and the game has a very annoying habit of abruptly changing the camera angle into a useless 'cinematic' view when new enemies appear, the thought clearly being to ensure that you are aware of their presence, but the reality being that it slows you down and prevents you from reacting for a number of seconds by which point those enemies have probably converged on your position. But these are minor annoyances, and when the gameplay works it is a lot of fun.

The real highlight of the game though, is the atmosphere. The game world has been filled with detail and character, environments look fully and realistically lived in, readable signs are scattered around cabins and nature trails to fill you in on the history of bright falls, and the world is just cohesive and believable, no small feat considering the subject matter. In addition, one can find tvs scattered through the levels which play episodes of "Night Springs", a parody of the Twilight Zone, and radios which broadcast the latest goings on from the one and only radio station in town, featuring music, interviews and opinion, all of which serves to fully flesh out the world and the characters within.

The presentation is also of a high standard. The game is divided into six 'episodes', each of which has a tv series-like intro and end credits sequence, complete with a full, and pretty awesome, licensed soundtrack. It's clearly been inspired by the likes of Lost and Twin Peaks, and it works very well indeed. At first I was a bit disappointed with the voice acting and dialogue writing in the early levels, (the opening sequence is a little big cringeworthy) but you'll find that when you get further into the game the quality, thankfully, increases. However, the narrative structure does get a bit frustrating, where everything is lovely and safe during the day time and the writers keep thinking up hackneyed reasons for you to waste away the entire day and only actually play at night.

The developers have also given us a load of collectibles in the game to try and add replay value, but to be honest I can't see myself playing all the way through this game again. It was an experience, and I look forward to the upcoming DLC add ons, but I am in no rush to work my way through everything again.

Lastly the graphics are great to look at, especially considering how long ago work started on this game. Bright Falls is beautiful, with sweeping vistas and lakes, it actually looks like a lovely place to spend a weekend, you know, if it wasn't for all the evil.

A lot of people are going to play this game with all the hype and prolonged development drama in mind, but I try to ignore such things and judge this game purely on its merits. So in the end I enjoyed this game a lot. The gameplay can frustrate in places, but it is mostly fun, and the presentation and attention to detail makes this game a pleasure of an experience.

Attention to detail

Shoehorned action
Camera mechanics
Occasionally naff writing

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Well that season went by far too quickly, didn't it? What a year, bizarre, nerve wrangling, and utterly wonderful in equal measures as the title race went down to the wire and the top 4 opened its doors to the top 8.

chelsea champions 2010

Because we love football at the Ephemeric, and I personally have too much free time this week, we are pleased to present to you our epic, in depth review of the season. Credit to the following consultants on this article: Alex Roberts, Ben Fitzgerald.

We'll begin with our season summary and team of the season, and then follow with a team by team review.

2010 Premier League Summary:

Winners: Chelsea
Relegated: Burnley, Hull, Portsmouth
Top Scorer: Didier Drogba (29)
Most Assists: Frank Lampard (17)
Overachievers: Birmingham City
Underachievers: Liverpool
Best signing of the season: Carlos Tevez
Worst signing of the season: Alberto Aquilani
Player of the Year: Wayne Rooney
Manager of the Year: Roy Hodgson

2010 Premier Team of the Season:

premier league team of the season xi

Goalkeeper: Joe Hart- Harshly sent on loan to Birmingham after he was deemed too good to be an understudy for Shay Given (if only HE was English, am I right?), Joe Hart has been one of the breakout young stars of the season, helping overachievers Birmingham to a top half finish in what has been a remarkable season for them built around a solid defence and masterful goalkeeping.

Right Back: Branislav Ivanovic- Started the season as a nobody, an understudy, a versatile defender who can play in all defensive positions. Ivanovic has taken the opportunity presented by Chelsea's injuries to show what he can do, and boy has he taken it. Sweats blue blood week in week out, runs up and down the flank without tiring, can tackle, cross, beat defenders, simply a class act who's come from nothing. Thoroughly deserved his place in the official PFA team of the season.

Centrebacks: Thomas Vermaelen & Richard Dunne- A close runner up for signing of the season, Vermaelen is a classy central defender with a real eye for goal, certainly one of the shining lights of this year's Arsenal team. Meanwhile Richard Dunne has been a near impervious wall at the back of another impressive Aston Villa team, and was a key pillar of one of the tightest defences in the league. A lot of pundits have put John Terry in their team for maintaining his strong form despite off the field shenanigans, but for me these two edge it.

Left Back: Patrice Evra - This was a very tough call between Evra and Ashley Cole. On his day, Ashley Cole is easily the best left back in the world, and he showed this with his stunning form this season, creating and scoring goals, whilst impeccable at the back. But in the end Cole has spent too much time injured this season to make the team, it's hard to judge the consistency of a player who only plays a handful of games. I'm going to give this one to Evra, who has been frankly awesome for United, their best defender this season and a constant attacking threat.

Right Mid: James Milner - He's been a hotly tipped player since his days at Leeds, this is the season where he finally came of age on the back of an impressive showing at the European U21 Championship. Moved into a more central role for much of the season but with the versatility to move out wide, Milner is a top talent and a shoo-in for the England squad this summer.

Centre Mids: Cesc Fabregas & Frank Lampard- Once again, Cesc appears to be carrying this Arsenal team at times, and this season is probably his best yet as he continues to edge toward his potential. Meanwhile, after a slow start Frank Lampard ended up having the best season of his career, scoring a personal best of 22 goals in the league, scoring over 20 in all competitions for the 6th consecutive season, he also topped the assists chart. Surely a key man for England this summer.

Left Mid: Florent Malouda - He took his time about it, but this season Malouda finally hit the kind of form that saw him signed from Lyon. Particularly in the second half of the season he has transitioned from superfluous so and so to absolute world beater, the form player in the league for the last few weeks.

Forwards: Didier Drogba & Wayne Rooney - Can be few arguments here. Tevez unlucky to miss out after another fantastic season (I wonder if any Man U supporters are still going to criticise me for rating him above Berbatov), but Drogba has had the season of his life, with 29 league goals, more in other competitions, and plenty of assists to boot, and that's despite being away at the African Cup of Nations. Meanwhile Rooney is my player of the year, and without a doubt one of the best in the world right now. He is just a complete player, he is fast, strong, sublime technique and a genius, without him Man United look lost, and England will too if he's not fit.

Team by team Review

wenger christ


Predicted Position: 4th
Final Position: 3rd

They were considered "in" the title race for long periods of the season according to the media, but one look at the statistics, and the total number of points would suggest that not a whole lot has improved since last season, and their prominence may have more to do with how poorly Chelsea and Man United performed for much of the year. They certainly benefitted from the shock collapse of Liverpool, but in the end were pushed very close by Spurs for 3rd.

Nevertheless, Arsene Wenger always impresses with his ability to pull together consistent winning performances from a squad that on paper looks pretty lightweight compared to their rivals, and even their first xi seems to weak aside from one or two world class players. It is a testament to his skills that players like Gibbs, Denilson can slot into the team with little affect on results. Wenger also was the man behind the "moment of the season" where having been sent off for the heinous crime of kicking a bottle of water, walked straight into the Man United fans at Old Trafford and adopted a frankly Christ-like pose (pictured above). Epic.

But Fabregas continues to go from strength to strength, Robin Van Persie looked sharp before his injury, and Vermaelen is a fantastic signing in the defence. A few choice signings in the summer, as they can afford thanks to the positive financial policy in the club, and Arsenal can do even better next season so long as Wenger doesn't lose his knack.

Best Player: Cesc Fabregas
Worst Player: Manuel Almunia
Summer transfer targets: Goalkeeper, target man striker, winger


Predicted Position: 7th
Final Position: 6th

Another positive season for the club, but as I predicted, not quite in the running for the top 4 when it comes to crunch time. Their defence was particularly impressive with the likes of Dunne, Cuellar, Warnock and Collins all formidable, and Brad Friedel having yet another strong season in goal.

James Milner was a revelation, and Downing looked up for it when he returned from injury. The question is whether they can keep ahold of their players, with Young and Milner both heavily linked with a move away from Villa Park.

Best Player: James Milner
Worst Player: John Carew
Summer transfer targets: Striker, keep ahold of key players


Predicted Position: 17th
Final Position: 9th

My pick for the season's biggest overachievers. I had a suspicion that of the newly promoted teams Birmingham had the potential to fare well, but I had no idea how strong they would be.

Alex McLeish was known for working miracles with Scotland and he's done it again here with a fantastic top half finish, owed mostly to some sublime form in the run up to New Years.

The key for them has been the successful rearguard action, Roger Johnson has been on song at the back, and in particular Joe Hart has had a stunning season.

Best Player: Joe Hart
Worst Player: Keith Fahey
Summer transfer targets: Goalkeeper, forward


Predicted Position: 16th
Final Position: 10th

Another team that performed marginally better than expected, but then it was only a matter of time before Sam Allardyce worked his club building magic at Ewood Park, and I guess that time has come.

In the second half of the season in particular they have been very strong, especially at home where in the last few games of the season they drew with Chelsea, Man U and beat Arsenal.

Chris Samba is a rock in the defence, and Paul Robinson looks like a man reborn, and must surely be in with a shout of the England squad. David Dunn has also been excellent and dangerous when fit, which is not often.

Best Player: David Dunn
Worst Player: El-Hadji Diouf
Summer transfer targets: Striker(s)


Predicted Position: 12th
Final Position: 14th

A pretty much expected season of mid table obscurity, things certainly took a turn for the better with the appointment of Owen Coyle as manager. The man who pulled off some special accomplishments with Burnley steered Bolton to safety, and it will be interesting to see how he can build on this for the future.

Kevin Davies is a consistent performer, and does the job that is asked of him, while Jack Wilshere on loan from Arsenal has had a decent, if unremarkable season. Meanwhile Gary Cahill looks a real talent at the back.

Best Player: Chung-Yong Lee
Worst Player: Ricardo Gardner
Summer transfer targets: Striker, fullback, winger


Predicted Position: 20th
Final Position: 18th

A long and difficult season despite some heartening performances at home, predictably ending in relegation.

Losing Owen Coyle was a massive blow, but bright performances form some players like Fletcher and Alexander.

Best Player: Steven Fletcher
Worst Player: Steven Caldwell
Summer transfer targets: Central midfielder, striker


Predicted Position: 3rd
Final Position: 1st

At the start of the season I predicted they would be there or thereabouts, but felt that a lack of consistency and an overrated manager would see them miss out.

Well it's hard to deny that they have been wildly inconsistent, and in the end they won the title simply because Man U have been even worse. But that being said, when they have been on form they have been sublime, breaking pretty much every goalscoring record in the book, playing stunning champagne football, taking the golden boot, the golden glove, and most importantly the Premier League title. In a few days time they might even add the FA Cup to make this the most successful season of all time for Chelsea.

I have to hand it to Carlo, he has exceeded my expectations for all the above reasons, and if that wasn't enough, it seems our investment in youth is starting to pay dividends, with several teens playing a part in the title win (mostly due to injuries) and the youth team winning the coveted FA Youth Cup for the first time in 40 years.

That being said there is work to do, this squad won't play at this level for much longer. Ballack and Deco are done, Ferreira is not good enough, but perhaps useful as a 3rd choice. Even Lampard, Drogba and Anelka are getting on now and won't be around for more than a couple more seasons, so reinforcements are necessary. Ancelotti has already stated that he intends to promote 5 youth products to the first team next season, but it's hard to see Chelsea retaining the title without one or two world class additions to bridge the gap between old and new.

Best Player: Frank Lampard
Worst Player: Deco
Summer transfer targets: Striker, central midfielder(s)


Predicted Position: 6th
Final Position: 8th

Another season on the fringes of the big time, Everton got off to a shaky start, but since New Years they have arguably been as good as any other team in the league.

Blessed with an array of midfield talent from the likes of Cahill, Fellaini, Donovan, Pienaar, Arteta, Rodwell and others, as well as one of the top managers in the league in David Moyes, Everton are a good side. If they invest wisely in the summer they are more than capable of building on this for next year provided they can keep hold of their players.

For the first time in years they also have product up front with Louis Saha now fit and in good form, another striker to partner him and they could be very dangerous.

Best Player: Steven Pienaar
Worst Player: Joseph Yobo
Summer transfer targets: Striker, holding midfielder

Latest club news

Predicted Position: 10th
Final Position: 12th

A similar season to last year, comfortable midtable finish despite a complete lack of quality or depth in the squad. The fact that Bobby Zamora (who to be fair to the lad has delivered) is their key man says it all really.

On top of this they have somehow worked their way to the Europa League final, a historic day for the club and a wonderful day for English football in general. Credit must surely go to Roy Hodgson, my pick for manager of the year.

Best Player: Bobby Zamora
Worst Player: Erik Nevland
Summer transfer targets: Depth throughout, especially up front


Predicted Position: 19th
Final Position: 19th

A long and painful season for Hull which saw bad losses, a change in management, and not much to celebrate.

The future remains very unsure, and if I were them I would keep ahold of Dowie, a man with a proven track record in the Championship. Rebuilding is necessary, but with no money it's going to take a lot of work this summer.

Best Player: Jimmy Bullard
Worst Player: Jan Veenegoor of Hesselink (also winner of best name award)
Summer transfer targets: A miracle.


Predicted Position: 1st
Final Position: 7th

Well I don't think anyone saw this coming. A disaster of a season in every single regard, on and off the pitch. Terrible results, a team and manager bereft of confidence, piling debt and jaded and unpopular owners looking to sell.

The problem with Liverpool recently has been that aside from Gerrard and Torres they don't have a whole lot of world class quality in the side. So with Torres injured so often and Gerrard in woeful form this season it is no surprise that they have fared so poorly, and it wouldn't surprise me to see either or both of them leave this summer.

The future is very uncertain for Liverpool right now and while massive rebuilding is needed it's hard to see how that's going to happen right now with no money and the possibility of their two key players leaving.

Best Player: Pepe Reina
Worst Player: Lucas
Summer transfer targets: Total overhaul and keep Gerrard/Torres


Predicted Position: 5th
Final Position: 5th

More improvement, but not quite there yet. Another summer of big spending could put them in contention with the top 4, but without champions league football it will be that little bit harder to entice the big names.

Mancini has done a good job since arriving at the club, but to be honest they have the players to win games no matter who's in charge.

In particular Tevez has been an absolute star, scoring bucket loads, supplying a lot more, and generally working his socks off. Ex-Arsenal signings Touré and Adebayor have also been good, but there is still a surprising lack of consistency with the defence that will need to be looked at.

Best Player: Carlos Tevez
Worst Player: Micah Richards
Summer transfer targets: A new defence, probably a few pricey big names elsewhere


Predicted Position: 2nd
Final Position: 2nd

United fans will be crestfallen that they were unable to clinch an unprecedented 4th consecutive title, especially following such an unconvincing and inconsistent season.

Particularly worrying is the toothlessness the club shows when Rooney is not present. Berbatov has been a 32 million pound flop, and they could really have used Tevez this year. Equally worrying is how reliant they still are on the likes of Scholes and Giggs, now past their mid 30s.

That being said, Wayne Rooney is amazing, one of the best in the world. Patrice Evra has had the best season of his career so far. On top of this there are some decent young players waiting in the wings, like Obertan and Gibson. Nani and Valencia will have to be on top form next season unless signings are made this summer.

Best Player: Wayne Rooney
Worst Player: Dimitar Berbatov
Summer transfer targets: Holding midfielder, Striker, replacements for aging squad


Predicted Position: 15th
Final Position: 20th

Nightmare season for Portsmouth, administration, bankrupt, points deducted, relegated. Everything has gone wrong for them this season.

That being said, Avram Grant has picked them up since his arrival and is a good bet to help them recover next season. The FA Cup had provided a silver lining for them with their successful cup run that has led them to the final against champions Chelsea. You couldn't set up a better final than first vs last, and I wouldn't count them out of it either.

Best Player: Jamie O'Hara
Worst Player: Tal Ben-Haim
Summer transfer targets: Depends if they keep any of their loan players


Predicted Position: 18th
Final Position: 11th

Another success story as Stoke had a very impressive season, again built around defensive excellence with the likes of Sorensen in goal and Shawcross in defence.

Pulis has done remarkable work this season, but as we've seen in the past with Reading and Hull, overachievers one year can become relegation fodder the next.

Best Player: Ryan Shawcross
Worst Player: James Beattie
Summer transfer targets: Striker, winger, fullback


Predicted Position: 13th
Final Position: 13th

Solid season marked by inconsistency, a few heavy losses here, an impressive upset there. Darren Bent proved to be an inspired signing as he rode high in the league scorers table, while Craig Gordon looked back to his best at times in goal.

Other players, however, have disappointed, none more so than Fraizer Campbell, who promised to be a competent foil for Bent but never really found his footing.

Reinforcements in the midfield and defence, and perhaps another striker to partner Bent, would go a long way toward securing safety again next season and pushing forward with the club's ambitions.

Best Player: Darren Bent
Worst Player: Fraizer Campbell
Summer transfer targets: fullback, central midfielder, striker

Predicted Position: 8th
Final Position: 4th

Harry Redknapp has done it again. The man who brought Pompey FA Cup success has now successfully led Tottenham to their first every Champions League via a 4th place finish, and came to within a whisker of pipping Arsenal to 3rd on the last day of the season.

This Tottenham team has really hit its potential this season, with the likes of Lennon, Defoe, King and Bale all very impressive, despite their injuries, the likes of Dawson and Gomes ensuring solidity at the back, and a creative midfield.

But one has to wonder if this squad is capable of going further or if this is their peak. It is fortunate then that Spurs have never been shy about spending in the transfer market, and a summer of wise spending could see them push the big boys even further.

Best Player: Gareth Bale
Worst Player: Robbie Keane
Summer transfer targets: Striker, Central midfielder

Predicted Position: 9th
Final Position: 17th

After a good first season with the club, nicest man in football Gianfranco Zola has had a torrid time this year, just scraping survival. That being said, he is still popular among the fans and players, even though his bosses have never hidden their lack of faith.

The jury is still out whether he is truly to blame, let's face it the team is not in great shape, and the new owners have not done much to bring a stabilising presence to the club in a difficult season.

That has not stopped the death knell from tolling for Zola, and the club is now on the lookout for a new manager, perhaps harshly, as well as new players. And as if Zola did not have enough people's sympathies, when journalists spent the entire day camped out in front of his Kent home in the cold trying to wrangle a response, Gianfranco brought them all tea and coffee, brewed their drinks himself, and apologised in his smiley way for not answering any of their questions.

Whatever happens to the man professionally, he's a legend and a true gentleman.

Best Player: Scott Parker
Worst Player: Jonathan Spector
Summer transfer targets: Midfield & defensive reinforcements, replace any outgoing players

Predicted Position: 11th
Final Position: 16th

A poor season for Martinez's men, typified by some atrocious away form that has seen them lose 16 out of 19 away games in the league this season, conceding 8 goals or more on two occasions.

However, he has managed to keep his team safe, which in retrospect is an accomplishment considering the turbulent start they had to the season.

Now it is necessary to build the team once again and try to push up into mid table, while preparing for potential exits for key players.

Best Player: Hugo Rodallega
Worst Player: Jason Scotland
Summer transfer targets: Striker, midfielder

Predicted Position: 14th
Final Position: 15th

As expected, McCarthy has got his boys working their socks off, and despite never really looking like much of a team they have managed to at least keep consistent and get the results that keep them safe in the premier league.

Kevin Doyle lived up to everyone's hopes and has been absolutely vital for the team's efforts. Now they face a challenge to keep him at Molineux.

Best Player: Kevin Doyle
Worst Player: Richard Stearman
Summer transfer targets: Striker, holding midfielder

Tuesday 4 May 2010

digg sucks

Some of my longer term readers will remember this gem from last year where we broke a story about Digg banning an entire Imperial College dorm from Digg, silently and without comment or explanation.

The story found its way onto Digg itself and generated massive hits until it was deleted by nervous Digg staffers who didn't want the bad PR associated with this embarrassing incident. The story was subsequently swept under the rug and all articles from the Ephemeric were then banned from being posted on Digg.

Well we have a quick update on that, and it seems the story has a happy ending. After 6 months of waiting for a response, Digg have finally contacted us and all the students involved, removing their ban and extending "sincere" apologies. In addition, the Ephemeric is now unblocked from Digg, so stories can be submitted again.

Congratulations Digg, it only took you 6 months to correct your blunder. My first action now that I'm back on Digg? Delete my account, the website simply is not worth the hassle or being treated like this by customer support. My advice to all of you? Use Reddit.

The full text of the email is below:

Dear Valued User,

We recently had your case passed through to our support team, and I can only apologise for the delay in responding. We understand that on the 24th of August 2009 yourself and 50 Digg users had their accounts suspended in connection with spamming.

The reason we have this policy in place is to maintain the high standards of social media that we are proud to offer at Digg, and improve the user experience for everyone.

Now that we have reviewed the evidence, it is obvious that we were mistaken, and that no spamming or illicit activity of any kind took place. From the perspective of our technical staff, your dorm's shared computer looked like a single user operating multiple usernames, which was the cause for our action. We have reviewed our process for identifying such misuse and we can assure you that we have corrected the mistake.

Of course all your accounts will be reactivated, and we hope you accept our sincerest apologies for this whole misunderstanding, and continue to use Digg in the future.

Kind Regards,

Digg Customer Support

Well I suppose that's an apology, don't know what took them so long though. What I find particularly unfathomable, however, is that surely we can't be the only dorm in the Western world housing multiple Digg users, does this sort of random mass banning happen regularly? Any students with similar stories please don't hesitate to post here.

Saturday 1 May 2010

song of the week: "Your Ex-Lover is Dead" by "Stars" (old but classic)

thing that makes me grimace today: Liverpool being out of the Europa League, enabling them to throw everything they have left into the game against us tomorrow.

pic of the day (credit goes to the awesome Tsevis):
world cup ghana
Financial Reform lies

Health Care Reform lies
Sigur Rós

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