Welcome To The Real World

Let me explain a few things.

As many of you may be aware my blogging world has been turned upside down by the attention received for How Did We Lose In Adelaide. The cricket blog has shattered my hits records, has attracted some fantastic commenters, and had some mixed feedback. It is a tiny pinprick on the cricket establishment, but I find my words spread wide as certain people comment using the stuff on there. As a result, Seven and Seven Eighths, my spiritual blogging home, has fallen into total disrepair. HDWLIA has taken all my time. For the short term, I think that’s very much going to remain the way of the world.

However, I don’t want to leave this alone, and let it die totally. I had hopes of doing a World Cup blogging exercise, but that got shelved after all of one day. I am reading a bit more again, and hope to stick up book reviews every now and then – you’ll see the Ailes book below, and I’ve also got one to write on the Damian McBride book too.

I’ve been on this blog for nearly six years, and won’t let it die totally. I hope you stick with it, and take it for what it is. I will be back.

Meanwhile, all the good stuff is over there……

After A Long Break….A Book Review

51vXMyJTK6L“The Loudest Voice In The Room : How The Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News And Divided A Country”

By Gabriel Sherman

 

American politics and American news coverage. I love the USA for many things, but these two items are not on my list. The politics is so divisive, yet so incestuous. The proverbial two bald men fighting over a comb, but in so doing, scratching eyeballs out, so that when someone wins, they can’t find the damn comb. The news coverage, and especially Fox News coverage, is ridiculous, and would be absurd if it weren’t so bloody serious. What I see from here is a political system inhabited by cranks, reported on by screaming lunatics from the sideline. I am reading Dylan Ratigan’s “Greedy Bastards” (a pretty crap book, to be honest, but well-intentioned) and realise the whole thing could drive you mad.

Behind much of the madness lies Roger Ailes. Lies, of course, being the operative word, as we are talking about a very political animal. Lies in calling your news station “Fair and Balanced” when “Biased and Unhinged” would probably be more appropriate. The only balance it has is that it is right wing in a world where anything left of orthodox free-market worship is borderline communist, and that applies to some of its rivals.

The book details the life and times of Ailes, who, without doubt, is a brilliant man, overcoming a serious medical condition to rise up the ladder. To be clear though, it’s brilliant in achieving what he has, not brilliant in a way to benefit the rest of humankind, of his attitude to women presenters (a memorable line in the book is “I didn’t hire you so those legs could be hidden behind a desk – sure Megyn Kelly might be chuffed about that), of his political machinations and operations. Ailes has been brilliant for Fox News and Rupert Murdoch, and he knows it.

The book takes you from his Ohio roots, through his days on television, to his role in Nixon’s election to the presidency, all the way up to the establishment of Fox News and its position in the media firmament. It details how the network handles volatile characters like Bill O’Reilly, Shuan Hannity and the off the charts barking mad Glenn Beck. It details Ailes dark arts, his ruthlessness and his anger. It lets you into a world that you know exists, but part of you would rather it didn’t.

Sherman had no access to Ailes, and writes from a distance, but clearly has contacts very close to his subject matter. Ailes is hostile to his project, and makes sure the world knows it. The reader is having to take Sherman on trust, but he provides plenty of evidence and quotes, and the attempts to discredit fall flat. Ailes is known as a bit of a bully on the web, and to some this is seen as a badge of honour for him. If the leader desires fear to control, Ailes appears top dog at that skill.

Local newspapers, political campaigns, influence with Presidents… all here. All entertaining. All well worth a read if you are interested in this sort of thing.

4 out of 5.

What Can Make You Feel This Way

Today’s walk through the park and down Birdcage Walk was paced differently. After yesterday’s wheezing, I had little to eat this morning, and went a bit earlier. The crowds were ludicrous, as I swore under my breath at people getting in my way, taking photos etc. I decided on a steady early pace, to cut out the wheezing which comes on after 6 or so minutes in, and then to up the ante down Birdcage Walk. Despite being pissed off on the bridge over the lake in the park, and having my headphones ripped off by a tourist on the corner of the Park as I face the Palace, it felt good. The legs were brilliant, the lungs coping….

Stopped the clock, after some nifty avoiding of another annoying tour party, and looked.

Lordy.

Previous best was 17:51.94 (yeah, yeah, spurious accuracy) on Monday. Yesterday was 18 minutes 13 with some liberal interpretation based on stopping to breathe. I looked.

17 MINUTES, 21 SECONDS (.89). I lost time due to tourists and took the first part easy (I was down by 7 seconds on my fastest at the bridge). Next target is to get that under 17 minutes in the next few weeks.

OK. Fat boy, I see all the joggers and fast walkers, but hell. I am starting at a REALLY LOW BASE. I’m proud of this. Since I started I’ve taken 3 minutes off my time.

Soundtrack today was, er, different.

A tedious piece of music…

A version of a famous song I’d not heard before (you always hear the Temptations, don’t you?):

and from one of Oaky’s GU sets…

which drove me down Birdcage Walk.

I will be pursuing less rigorous stuff tomorrow, before another ramble, hopefully on Friday. Next week is difficult as work takes me away from the Park.

Have a good day people.

 

 

Every Breath You Take

That was a wheezy walk. Well, not wheezy. More comeone sticking a bung in my chest. Pwoper Asthma. Still, a puff, and on my way and I posted my third best time despite hardly strolling for large parts of Birdcage Walk. I think I overcooked it early. Still, the pelicans were back down our end of the park today.

OK, the music mix. Four tunes today…

Youtube doesn’t appear to have “Broken Homes” by Ulrich Schnauss. It can be found at 5:06 on the full copy of his album

Next, nice and obscure, and how appropriate when you are gasping for breath…

Then, without Genius installed on the Ipod, this came up….

Finally, the start of a fourth track….

An eclectic old mix, but you know my music by now….

Oh, and the breathing is fine. So no need for anyone to worry. It’ll get better as I get fitter.

Book Review – Be Careful What You Wish For by Simon Jordan

Simon Jordan

I asked for this for Christmas from my brother. I was intrigued about what he had to say about running that bloody club from Croydon. I laughed how his stewardship brought my club’s most successful period against these knobheads. But the real reason I bought this was because the man’s ego would make sure this book would not be boring.

So, let me summarise. Self-made with a few bumps. Took a few chances, made a mint. Sold out, bought the club. Previous owner was naive fool, one before that an odious bitter old fucker. Coppell was dull, obstructive, didn’t like him. Smith was egotistical and arrogant, didn’t like him. Never met an agent I liked. Football authorities are idiots who wouldn’t last a minute in business. Don’t like many players, especially one’s with an opinion. They’re pretty much all conniving lazy bastards. Don’t like agents. Don’t like footballer’s contracts. Don’t like the Players Union. Don’t like WindyBricks. Don’t like Charlton. Don’t like their Chairman. Really don’t like Iain Dowie. Not keen on Peter Taylor. Didn’t like Steve Bruce but he’s alright now. Not big fans of Birmingham, and now West Ham owners. Promotion was an effing headache. Premier League is the madhouse. ITV? No, don’t like them. Only a fool would believe the business plan. Lost interest. Players lazy. Peter Taylor not a manager. Football full of hangers-on. Make no money out of it. Championship needs lots of money with no revenue. Went to the dogs, lost my money, no-one understood, new owner is a duplicitous tosser.

It was entertaining, but even with the limited football mentions of my club, there were factual errors, so lord knows how much was made up or not. I’d recommend it as a read, but take it with a grain of salt. He’s not the most grounded of individuals, our Simon.

However, there were bits where I was copiously in agreement, and indeed horrified about what he said. His description of player’s contracts and how they were negotiated by agents should be read by every football fan. Being paid a very decent basic salary and then paid extra to, as Jordan says “their job” made him puke. He certainly had a point there. As for agents, well….. he’s not a fan and nor should any football fan be.

I’m as “disengaged” from football now as I ever have been in my life. I watch the sport I used to give up my social life for and now know what I fool I was. You don’t have to scratch far below the surface to find appalling behaviour and morals. This isn’t a world for honest people. Jordan was a slick operator who got a bit too slick for his own good, but is very revealing in his descent. That had me tipping my hat to a man, yes, I openly despised.

A good read. Not award winning stuff, but well worth your time. Given football’s propensity for nonsense, this is a pretty high recommendation.

Steve Coppell seems a right old weirdo. At least Jordan found our song funny…..

Four stars.

 

A Brief Review Of Three Books

One of the staples of this blog has been my book reviews. Whether anyone gives a toss is by the by. I’ve read a few recently, so here goes a run-through of some:

AP Opp

American Prometheus – The Triumph And Tragedy Of J Robert Oppenheimer by Sherwin & Bird – A fantastic book, well-researched, in-depth and a fascinating tour through the life of a thoroughly absorbing individual. Now, if I told you an Anglo-Italian dance music collective brought me to this book, it would be scarcely believable, but it’s true. Planet Funk sample Oppenheimer’s most famous utterance in their track “Tears After The Rain” and I became drawn to the individual. This seemed the best book to read.

It covers what I knew a little about – the development of the Atomic Bomb, Manhattan Project and Trinty, and the aftermath of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki detonations, but where the book was most fascinating were the details of his development, selection, political leanings and interactions, which when the consequences of the atomic bomb faced an uncertain world, were turned against him. The persecution and attempted discrediting of Oppenheimer make up the most fascinating tracts of the very lengthy tome. It shows 1950s America in its true persecution light. It is brilliant. Dramatic. And in the world we live in with the Snowden revelations, prophetic and haunting. This isn’t a hero worship of Oppenheimer, but it certainly falls on one side at the end. This is a portrait of a highly intelligent, but deeply flawed man. He is no less of a hero because of his flaws.

A magnificent book, worth the effort to read, and a gateway to further exploration of an area of history I barely know, despite it being so recent. 4 and 3/4 stars.

24 Days

24 Days – How Two Wall Street Journal Reporters Uncovered The Lies That Destroyed Faith in Corporate America – By Smith & Emshwiller – This is a curious book, written in a curious style. It is often third person, and often paints the two authors as competitors as well as colleagues. If this was done to make the book “more real” it needn’t have been. This is an excellent piece of financial investigation meets entertaining story-telling. I have another book to read on the demise of Enron, called, funnily enough, The Smartest Guys In The Room, when the company’s fall from grace was, according to this, anything but the act of smart people.

As reinforcement of prejudice goes, this works. Short-cuts taken for big rewards; rules being something to be avoided, not followed, because the law of the jungle trumps the law of the land; head honchos being appointed because of how much they make, not what legacy and foundations they build, and the cult of personality, which in this case seemed to be the “brilliance” of Jeffrey Skilling, the amazing stewardship of Kenneth Lay, and the financial alchemy of Andy Fastow. Once the deck of cards started to fall, with the mysterious resignation of Skilling, followed by wave after wave of evidence of cover-ups, financial hocus-pocus, auditing irregularities, related party transactions and false presentation of accounts, it never stopped. This book casts the story in the eyes of two Wall Street Journal journalists, based in San Francisco, who worked on the story.

It’s a gripping read, quite easy to follow in most places (gets a bit tricky with the account structures that Enron had in place) and I read it very quickly. As I say, that’s always a good sign. However, the title of the book, as history has shown, was extremely presumptuous. The lessons were never learned and people still had faith in corporate America. In many ways, they still do.

A good read, if a little grinding with the writing style, but don’t judge it too harshly on that. As a guide through a complex maze, and a story, it works very, very well. 4 and a quarter stars.

Talking of financial malfeasance…

Grifftopia

Griftopia – By Matt Taibbi – For the uninitiated, Matt Taibbi is a journalist for Rolling Stone magazine, who focuses a large part of his remit on the financial machinations and political linkages on the other side of the Pond. The right wing loathe him, and the lefty magazine he works for. Their tactics in dealing with him are to ignore him. Put him down as a polemicist, prone to incoherent ranting and not worth listening to. However, one phrase of his has never been ignored, and is now synonymous with the name Goldman Sachs. Taibbi coined the phrase “Vampire Squid” for that bank.

This book is a wander through the financial crisis. It is often stark, insulting, a rant, a head-scratcher, the raging of a man who just doesn’t understand how the world let happen what happened. He despairs at weak politicians, in bed with the people who caused the financial crisis, active participants in the demise, and the chief recipients of blame despite the endless pumping of other people’s money into the vessels of failure which still sees Dimon and Blankfein in post and doing very well, thank you. It rails against AIG, the housing market scam, and all the gubbins. It is a magnificent work of anger. I loved it, of course. It preaches to me like a pastor does to a religious man.

Taibbi is often dismissed for being “wrong” on so much that he lacks credibility. Au contraire. If Taibbi is just 10% correct in this book, then we should be ashamed of ourselves for standing by and watching ourselves and our kin burn. I fear he’s right a lot more than he is wrong. It may be “gonzo writing” whatever that is, but he packs a punch. Read it. Get angrier.

 

Odds And Ends

I realise blogging has been very light. That’s because, at this moment in time, I really can’t be bothered. This has happened a few times since starting the blog and I always get the mojo back, but this might be a bit longer in the arrival this time around. I’ve resolved not to get as angry as before, to do something more constructive than just moaning, and to catch up on various other interests.

January was an interesting month. I went to South Korea for a few days with my job. I started that new job on the 6th, back where I came from. It has been a challenge, but just a few weeks in the frustrations are starting to emerge. The tools of the job are not up to par, the teamworking I saw previously is stretched to breaking point and I see things that worry me already. That and a gormless approach to staff motivation, inspired by this bunch of you-know-whos in power, grinds you down. I’ll ride the enthusiasm train only a little further before cuts in the railway infrastructure will have me hitting the buffers.

Windys have a new manager, described by the Stooge on the Board as the most exciting signing our club has made in his memory. Whatever. Since he’s been in charge we lost 1-0 to a team thumped 5-1 by Leeds last weekend, I saw a 1-1 draw with the Steelmen before Thursday last week, in which the team showed lots of effort, and fuck all quality, and then we got humped 3-0 at home by One of the 3 Rs. That dead cat bounce you get with a new appointment hasn’t exactly got the pulses racing. Oh, I forgot, we won a game 1-0 when our only goal came from a cross that went wrong. Do excuse me if I’m not convinced yet.

I still can’t bring myself to write about the Ashes tour and the subsequent one day bollocks. I’ll do it when the anger subsides. The whole series highlights sits on my Sky Plus like a death sentence.

Please note – Seattle Seahawks won the SuperBowl. Experts giving Denver a chance clearly weren’t paying attention. The canary in the goldmine in the AFC this year was Kansas City. That they could turn around their record so easily indicated we had a weak conference. The Pats also were good indicators, weakened as they were by key injuries and having an accused murderer off their roster.

So, with this brief update, I’ll say cheerio until something floats my boat. If you still want to know what the hell I’m moaning about, I do recommend following me on Twitter – @DmitriOld – where today I’ve had enough of unions being demonised, and Michael Gove resembling a Rick Moranis body-double.

Cheerio

Dmitri

On A Run Of 2 In A Row…

I predicted the Giants two seasons ago (and I was really confident about that) and the Ravens last season, less so, but all the others seemed flawed (and I had them against the 49ers too).

This year the Seahawks will play the Patriots in the Superbowl. Seahawks to win.

NOT, CONFIDENT At ALL.