Book Review – “What Is Contemporary Art?” Various Contributors

April 27th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Yeah. Oh wait, what? Ok. Yeah.

Book Review – “Of Walking In Ice” Werner Herzog

April 27th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Great – doesn’t take long either

New/Old Football Strips

April 27th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

In the last couple of days, both Celtic and Rangers have announced their new home strips for the 2012/2013 seasons. Assuming Rangers will even exist at the start of the season, there are some interesting elements to these designs. Although Celtic’s is made by Nike, and Rangers Umbro – both shirts have got a wee sponsor just above the heart. Tennents have kindly said “we can afford to be smaller” because they have the sponsorship of both clubs, and therefore (in Scotland anyway) have a monopoly on football shirt based exposure.

Tennents say (re the Celtic kit);

“Main club sponsor Tennent’s Lager, a supporter of Scottish football for almost 40 years, has changed its branding on the Club’s home shirts to mark the club’s 125th Anniversary. The logo will now appear below the club crest on the left breast of the shirt rather than across the chest as in previous seasons. Tennent’s believe that the way in which the brand has been incorporated into the new strip is a fitting way to celebrate the Club’s 125th anniversary.”

and (re Rangers);

“Main club sponsor Tennent’s Lager has kindly agreed to change its branding on the home shirt to help mark these significant anniversaries in Rangers’ history. The Tennent’s logo will now appear below the Club crest on the left breast of the shirt rather than across the chest as in previous seasons.”

Unsurprisingly similar comments there. Celtic are celebrating their 125th anniversary, Rangers their 140th (and 40th since their last and only European triumph in 1972). Anniversaries are strange things, based on the assumed importance of years ending in a 0 or a 5. This happy coincidence means both clubs have something to shout about – despite Celtic basing their anniversary on the ‘2012’ part of the season, and Rangers the ‘2013’. The ‘big’ clubs are not alone in celebrating anniversaries, St Mirren have a 135th (!) anniversary third (!) kit. Santos are also launching a 100th anniversary home and third kits.

What all of the above mentioned designs have in common is a desire to return to the simple, clean, elegant designs of their formative years. Apart from the proliferation (particularly on Santos and Brazilian kits in general) of sponsors that is, and I have already touched on possible reasons that contribute to Tennents decisions in that area.

Personally, I am a fan of simple designs of strips – I am also a fan of innovation though, strips that try to break the norm, like my recently purchased Partick Thistle grey and pink camoflauge (is that possible?) away kit.

So, on the whole, I quite like these designs. However, they are symptomatic of a contemporary desire to take inspiration directly from success’ of the past (this is not limited to football strips) instead of attempting to create a new language, because most attempts are so transient as to render the effort pointless. I am pretty sure that in 100 years, if they are still around, no one will be clamouring for a return to the Rangers Umbro kit of 2011/2012 – “The Adminstration Years” – not just because of the negative associations, but because it is dull. Same with Celtic’s kit – there is nothing about it that sticks in the mind. There will be continual cycles of fashion which lead kit designers again and again back to the original strips. Until some major leaps of imagination are made, these designs will remain the pinnacle, and rightly so in my opinion. But, there are still opportunities to expand the limits of strip design, these opportunities are usually away kits. There are others though, including the strip designs for Forest Pitch teams, which have been created by Scottish Primary school children. We are currently in a test production of these, and I personally can’t wait to see the real thing. If and when established clubs crumble, and new ones are created, there will be an opportunity for those clubs to create a new tradition, perhaps a tradition which takes into account the possibilities of 21st century textiles and printing.

(Many of the images on this post are from the excellent blog – www.footballshirtculture.com – please visit it)

 

Barcelona v Chelsea (Overdog v Underdog)

April 25th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

The Champions League semi-final last night was without doubt an enjoyable football occasion for most people. Barca fans, those who dislike Chelsea and others may disagree. Normally when watching any football match, I tend to hope the underdog wins, or at least takes the lead so the game is a little less predicatable, and players/fans are put into a position which is slightly alien to them.

So, it would seem before even the first leg of this semi-final, I would be hoping Chelsea take the lead and challenge Barcelona to break them down. Normally I would. However, there are a number of reasons to find Chelsea hard to support. I do actually own a Chelsea shirt (see below) which was bought out of wonder that bright orange, television snow and cross-hatching could be combined so successfully (?).

The ownership of the club brought a lot of jealously, and the usual indignation from football supporters who prefer clubs success to be built on long-term effort and investment. On top of that, recently there has been the John Terry racism case, and the response from a section of the Chelsea support to the situation. Personally, aside from the yet to be decided racism case, which the FA has sidestepped for a few months,  I find John Terry a highly unpalatable character. Last night he did something so embarrassingly amateur that I think he should be (finally) stripped of the Chelsea captaincy. That kind of “letting him know I’m here” intimidation is for English Championship level football at best, and pub football at worst. He’s done similar things in the past, and I am sure I saw him dig a knee into the stomach of a Barcelona player in the first half of the first leg (possibly Sanchez) which I never got to see a replay of. The look on Lampard’s face, when handed the captain’s armband by Terry was one of, not disbelief, but belief. He knew Terry was most likely guilty and had let the team down – Terry’s attempts to explain himself while walking away would have done nothing to reassure Lampard and the rest of the team.

And so, down to ten men, now surely I can allow myself to support the underdog? Well, normally I would be further steeled in support, and would hope the underdog could hold on, frustrating the better team, and proving themselves adept at the art of defending, which is, after all an important part of the game (most teams play with 5 defenders, including the goalkeeper, and 2 or 3 ‘forwards’ – its been that way since the 60’s).

However, this is still Chelsea, and I feel I want John Terry to be taught another lesson (though doubtless he not be interested in paying attention to the teacher). Added to this is the feeling that this is Barcelona. The best football team in the world. I want to see them in the final, against Bayern Munich. Watching Barcelona is at its best not when they are playing poor teams, but when they play a team who attacks them, allows there to be space, and is prepared to challenge their less than impressive defence and goalkeeper. I felt Bayern would do that.

However. There is a bit of a feeling of a backlash against Barcelona at the moment. I think it began with the Qatar Foundation sponsor on the shirt. Barcelona players (Messi, Xavi and Iniesta aside) like to complain and fall over easily – this is not exclusively a Barca problem, but it is galling to see such good players resort to the kind of sportsmanship that teams with less firepower need to help them along.

But, the main reason with which I find myself leaning towards the backlash and almost glad that Chelsea won last night is this – Barcelona do not just play pretty tiki taka – they only play tiki taka. There is rarely any other form of approach – tiki taka is clearly a pleasing thing to watch, particularly if it intricately unpicks a stoic defence, but what I really love about football (and which for me raises it above so many other team sports) is the variety of things that can happen – the way the ball can be struck, the kinds of shots that can be taken, the beauty of a long pass (Frank de Boer?) a well struck cross and a thumping header, etc etc and these are just the attacking possibilities (I could go on for a while about the subtleties of shot saving). It may seem a little trite to complain about this with Barcelona, as their style has been so successful, and is playful and simply elegant. But it seems that it is possible to stop – and if it is, a team needs to rethink its options, and I mean that within the 90 mins or less of a game. In the minutes of injury time last night, Barca tried a couple of long(ish) balls into the box, but being unused to that, it didn’t work.

Lionel Messi is a wonderful footballer, and I am particularly fond of his approach to being fouled – he get’s up and passes the ball again. I still don’t understand why a man like that agrees to appear in adverts for Pepsi Max – but I can forgive him for his skill and imagination. Recently he broke the goal scoring record for Barcelona, and I watched a video of every single goal he has scored for Barcelona. What was interesting was how similar the goals were. Apart from the odd (admittedly brilliant) solo mazy run, the goals were a combination of low crosses from the by-line turned in, one on one’s with the goalkeeper, little headers from lowish crosses from the by-line and quick one-two’s on the edge of the box, and passed past the goalie. There are no long range belters, few curled into the top corner, no volleys from the edge of the box. I feel this is illustrative of my issue with Barcelona – that you could eat your favourite meal every day of the week and become a bit sick of it.

I am not advocating a return to long-ball football, but at least an approach of mixing things up a bit – tiki taka clearly should be the way kids are taught to play football, it improves general technique, and is transferable from something like 5 a-side to 7’s and full size. It is attractive to watch, and is enjoyable to play. In 5 a-side football there can, over time, be a certain amount of stale-mate, as players are marked well, space is restricted, shooting chances are rare – what I feel really lights up a 5’s game, is a near halfway-line, low, straight, well struck shot off the post and in. I’d like to see that from Barcelona more, or at least a curler from the corner of the box into the top corner, stuck in the stanchion (if there is one).

And so, returning to the Champion’s League – I hope whoever plays Chelsea (preferably Bayern for me, because although they are the ‘giants’ of German football, they haven’t won the league this year and German football is very exciting and pleasing to watch) humps them. And I hope John Terry is greeting in the stands.

Yazidi

April 7th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I’d never heard of the ‘Yazidi’ people before. While looking at the Intangible Heritage of Humanity, and reading Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy, I somehow stumbled across the wikipedia entry for Yazidi. I’m not going to go into detail about Yazidi here, for a couple of reasons, one, I know nothing about them, and two, I would just be taking stuff from the wikipedia page. Here are some highlights;

– There are under 1 million Yazidi worldwide, most of whom live in Iraq

– They believe God created the world, then left it in the hands of 7 angels, the head angel being Melek Taus, the ‘Peacock Angel’

– They don’t like to mix the elements of Earth, Air, Water and Fire

– They do not intermarry even with other Kurds, and they accept no converts.

– Melek Taus is sometimes identified by orthodox Muslim’s as Satan.

Marie’s the Name / Train in Vain

April 4th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Sherlock Holmes / Mormons / C.C.A. Christensen

April 4th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

I don’t know much about the Mormon faith, other than some relatives of mine were once Mormons (they aren’t any more). I was reading the first Sherlock Holmes novel “A Study in Scarlet” (Arthur Conan Doyle, 1887) and the murderers in this story are Mormon.

It seems that Doyle stated after the fact that his depictions of Mormon’s in the book were misguided, although the Mountain Meadows Massacre may have been an influence on his views. Regardless, I was interested while reading the book in a depiction of the movement of Brigham Young and 70,000 Mormon Pioneers from Illinois to settle in Utah. While looking into this I came across the paintings of C.C.A. Christensen.

Christensen painted the history of the Church of Latter-day Saints, and particularly the Mormon migration to Utah. Here are some of his paintings.

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