Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Check out my new favourite band, The Decemberists, (

Hailing from Portland, Oregon - they're featured in this month's issue of the UK's finest magazine, The Word, and play a kind of quirky, experimental pop-indie-folk melange with a good helping of melancholy, blood and gore, with songs on their latest album 'The Crane Wife' covering subjects from Japanese folk tales (the title track) to Northern Ireland in the 1970s and the US Civil War.

And they're really rather good.

Last song on the iPod (well, it had to be after that!): The Decemberists - Yankee Bayonet
According to today's Guardian, an 'overwhelming majority' of people in Britain are willing to sacrifice their civil liberties in order to help 'the fight against terrorism.'

This is deeply depressing, I can't believe that I'm the only one who thinks that September 11 2001 and its after-effects have been an absolute godsend to governments around the world. Traditionally, we and other nations would surely have fought tooth and nail to prevent legislation such as that introducing ID cards, 90 days detention without trial for suspected 'terrorists', anti-demonstration laws and phone tapping. Governments down the years have dreamed of introducing this kind of surveillance of its citizens but have never dared for fear of the outcry. Now they only have to mention the 't' word and it seems we are cowed into meek acceptance.

Mr Blair must think Christmas has come early.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

If all goes tonight as it has done previously, Australia will complete a comprehensive win over England some time in the early hours in the UK.

As well as confirming the first 5-0 whitewash that England have suffered in the Ashes since 1921, the occasion will mark the last time that we see Shane Keith Warne involved in a competitive international cricket match.

So many words have been written about Warne that I'm not going to go on and on but the thing I love about him is that he has always entertained. I've read columns recently castigating him for over-zealous appealing and sledging of opponents but it's all part of his sense of theatre.

It's easy to forget in this world of vast salaries that one of the core characteristics of sport, as well as the elements of competition, talent and spirit, is that it should be entertainment for spectators. Nobody captures that drama like Warne - whether it's the Ball of the Century that drifted, dipped and spun its way into history, or yesterday's observation that Paul Collingwood should give back his MBE...!

The nub of his appeal for me is that he is the antithesis of the modern professional sportsman. In a land populated by charisma-less clones with fitness coaches, dieticians and personality bypasses, Warne is unfit and overweight, surviving on a diet of pizza and toasted sandwiches. He smokes and drinks and when not involved in cricket, he relaxes by sending flirty or alternatively, obscene text messages to attractive ladies who are not his wife! And despite all that, his well of cricketing genius runs so deep that he is still the leading Test match wicket-taker of all time and arguably the greatest bowler who ever drew breath. What's not to love about that?!?

Sport lovers everywhere should feast their eyes on his last performance tonight for we shall not see his like again and we will weep when he is gone.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

2007 is here at last. New Year resolutions are varied, from visiting the west coast of the USA to submitting ten chapters and a synopsis of the book that may (or may not) change my employment prospects.

I don't believe it's hypocritical to want to visit the US, despite previous criticism of the behaviour of their political leaders. It's a truly fascinating country, and the American citizens I know are invariably very personable, knowledgeable and friendly. I still love the UK despite the increasingly bewildering madness of our own political masters. Incidentally, does anybody else get the feeling that there is a sea change waiting to happen in British politics? Where the Prime Minister once appeared steadfast, he now looks increasingly like some kind of unbalanced religious fanatic. First Mate Prescott is finished, and the remainder of the Cabinet appear caught between defending increasingly bizarre policy and jockeying for position under Mr Brown. One almost feels sorry for Gordon - will he finally get the reward he has craved for so long, only to be bundled out unceremoniously just a couple of years later, drowning in a sea of recrimination?

So, a Happy New Year to all, may it bring you peace and joy. Especially if you live in Baghdad, Basra, Najaf.......