Saturday, August 30, 2008

Scientology Protest

Yesterday I have to say that I was very pleased to see that there were a small group of protesters outside the Scientology centre on Tottenham Court Rd.

There are quite a lot of things that annoy me and Scientology is quite near the top of the list. Now I do not have a lot of first hand evidence, but my impression is that it is effectively a grandiose 'Pyramid Scheme', whereby people are sold products (mainly relating to dianetics). I am assuming that most people are aware of Scientology so I do not need to go into detail here. My main problem with the Tottenham Court Road 'store' is the aggressive nature of the people working there, I am used to people coming up to me and asking me annoying questions in the street, but I have only ever been grabbed by the arm by Scientologists. This sort of behaviour lends weight to the belief that they are an aggressive group and there are many people claiming to have been harassed by them , not least the BBC's John Sweeney.

Anyway, there was a small group of protesters who I neglected to take a photo of, but they were dressed in the 'V for Vendetta' Guy Fawkes masks. The protest was somewhat noisy but very non-aggressive and had even encouraged the Scientology workers to stay off the street. I congratulated them on their good work in denouncing the Scientologists and claiming that they were only after money.

After a quick search on the Interweb I discovered that there is an organisation called 'Anonymous' who spend a large part of their time trying to bring down the so-called 'Church of Scientology'. It would appear that this group have gone a little far in trying to point out that they think that Scientology is dangerous and possibly criminal in its operations.

I didn't realise there was such an underground battle going on. Though I think that Scientology is a self-serving, secretive business that should definitely not be using the term 'Church', I am not sure I can condone all the activities that appear to have been perpetrated against them. Saying that I very much like the Scientologists to leave the UK at least.

Maybe I should take one of their ridiculous personality tests and find out what is going on. Surely only people having a laugh can seriously go in there to have their happiness measured....

If you want to see the worst case on what some people think Scientologists get up to, click here. Slightly alarmist to say the least.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tottenham vs. Sunderland

It is not that I at all underestimated the whole-hearted manner that Roy Keane and his troops would bring with them to the Lane, but the result yesterday surprised and disappointed me. From the moment I arrived at the West Cornwall Pasty stand at Liverpool Street station that had been annexed by a red and white shirted army and faced the screaming chants of the Mackems, I knew that there would be no shortage of spirit in the Sunderland team or support from the corner of the South stand. Having once been to Watford vs. Sunderland a few years back and seen the Sunderland fans effectively seize control of the city centre I knew how seriously these guys took their football.

Buoyed by the recent signings of Cisse and Healy as well as the Ramos rejects, it was no wonder they were in good heart, it is probably the best position they have been in since Mr. Kevin Phillips was at the top of the Premiership scoring charts...

Anyhow, after making our way to the ground I remembered there was another bad omen in the form of my only being able to get seats in the West lower. This was an annoyance that due to the privilege of my Bronze membership I got to get my ticket a day early. The downside was that I ended up in the West stand (rather than the South) and paying a lot more for it. I won't go into my many issues with the club and the ticketing policies....

The bad omen was in the fact that the last time I was in the West stand we lost 4-0 to Chelsea in the cup, with only the privilege off seeing Le Saux being sent off to show for that trip.

Everyone was talking about Berbatov's non-appearance, but the worry about this was offset by the fact that King and Bale were starting. This in turn was offset by the fact that BAE was also starting. Surely Bale should be playing left back with him on the bench (if not dispatched).

The sun was out, I had supped a calming beer and positivity was slowly returning. Surely we had to win...Sunderland didn't even have a decent striker on the pitch (though they did have four strikers on the bench).

It is quite difficult to describe the first half except to point out that it was boring. Sunderland didn't really threaten, Woodgate and King looked relatively solid, and though we had conceded a few too many corners things looked OK at the back. Up front unfortunately there was hardly any action. Bent was starved of the ball, Modric and the rest of the midfield were hounded and kept very quiet. Bentley looked the only spark and his set-pieces provided the main threat without worrying the solid Sunderland back four unduly. Half-time arrived and the crowd seemed left mainly bemused by the lack of action, not something I have grown used to at the Lane.

The second half opened with some glimpses of goalmouth action, Bale and Woodgate should both have scored before Richardson made some space and curled one into the top corner. Sunderland's shooting had previously been woeful and this pearl of a strike surprised everyone and left the crowd in shock. The Sunderland fans went mad (as they had done for pretty much every touch and certainly all their corners) and the Spurs faithful took a little while to recover.

Huddlestone and Gio came on and though they added a bit of spark, Steeeeeeeeeeed still seemed to be the most effective midfielder on the pitch (he had also hit the post in the first half). Then the almost anonymous Modric burst into life and into the area, shooting for Gordon to parry out to Jenas, who tapped home.

Relief burst out of the ground, and a belief that the game was there for the taking. A few stuttering attacks took place and the lively Dos Santos certainly caused some trouble for the visitors' defence, but then the hammer blow. Zokora failed to cut out a cross from Murphy and our vaunted centre back pairing was left to gape at Cisse as he powered a header past Gomes. Absolutely shocking defending from all involved. With finishing like that it adds further to the recriminations over the recent lack of Spurs signings.

I am certainly not saying Cisse was the man for Spurs, but he would certainly be useful in the current situation. To be fair, given our current plight, we should have snapped up Dave Kitson as a backup striker. He may not be fast or prolific, but he has a footballing brain (apologies for the cliché), he can score goals and he is a real Spurs fan. He certainly seemed to enjoy scoring two goals at the Lane in the goal-laden Reading match last season. As for defenders with Kompany joining Coloccini and Cuellar as recent Premiership recruits, Ramos really better have someone up his sleeve before the transfer deadline...

As for the rest of the match, there were some spirited attacks but as with the rest of the game no clean cut chances. The layers left to jeers and everyone was left to worry about the trip to Stamford Bridge next week. Without doubt we will perform with spirit, up the quality of play, put up a fight but ultimately lose.Villa at home now looks like key match which Spurs will have to win, if only to get out of the bottom three...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Counting Horses and Talking Dogs

I am afraid I am a big fan of the random and "Clever Hans The Maths Horse" would appear to tick all the boxes. In the early 20th century a horse named Hans travelled around Germany performing arithmetic tasks and reading German. If only "That's Life" had been around. The story is also covered in Wikipedia (where the image is from).

The "Damn Interesting" website is well worth checking out (even if you aren't interested in mathematical equine adventurers).

Talking about That's Life, who can forget Prince, the dog who says "sausages". He was an inspiration for millions. Check him here on Youtube.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tottenham's New Dawn (again)

Another season, another opening weekend of disappointment for Spurs fans. The Berbatov problem needs to be the first addressed, but though I read criticisms of the board for their failure to act, what else can they do? They cannot sell him without first securing at least one but hopefully two new strikers. To do otherwise would be a ridiculous act of negligence.

It is finding these strikers that is the biggest problem. As Manchester United, Everton and many other clubs are finding out it is very hard to find top quality strikers. Certainly David Villa would be great but he was never coming to Spurs. I am not sure Pavlyuchenko is going to be a Premiership success, but he would be worth a shot for £10-12m but this deal seems unlikely. Other names like Milito and Owen would work for me but both of these have also been refuted. Kanoute could be a short term solution but he is over 30 and though I am a big fan of Dean Ashton, he cannot be worth more than £10m. A fit Louis Saha would even have been a welcome addition but unfortunately it looks like his whole career is going to be marred by injury.

Arshavin makes a decent Keane replacement but he is not worth €25m and Levy should stick to his guns, even if he comes it does not nearly solve our central striker issue. Klaas Jan Huntelaar is probably the best Spurs can hope for, but again this is very unlikely given that he is being monitored by a host of Champions League teams. I can only assume that we will be bringing in some relatively low profile European or South American striker or else Roque Santa Cruz will be allowed to leave Blackburn.

The best I can see is that Arshavin and RSC join for £35m and Berbatov ships out. On top of this Tottenham need cover at centre-back and right-back where Corluka would be an excellent addition. Having seen his lack of celebration after scoring on Sunday (though this could be to do with Man City's two defeats this week) I am hoping that this deal is completed this month (though I see there is now an extra day as the 31st is a Sunday. On top of that, rumours of Veloso from Sporting Lisbon are still around but I see this as unlikely, especially if Moutinho does leave there for Everton.

All in all, life as a Spurs fan is rather frustrating, especially when we see Cuellar and Coloccini being signed up in the last 10 days by rivals. These were both players linked with Spurs and you would imagine Ramos knows what these guys are about. From what I have seen, either would be an improvement on Dawson at CB, at least on his 2008 form. Barcelona are also now linked with Capel and it would not be a surprise to see him go there, and knowing our luck Arshavin would end up joining him.

As for the match, it was classic Tottenham, not holding on to the ball (even with Modric), conceding at set pieces and failing to get the ball to the striker. The fact that our three best players, King, Berbatov and Bale were on the bench did not help. Saying that, Spurs only conceded after Bale and Berbatov came on. We have to hope for better, starting on Saturday with a win against Sunderland....but I wouldn't bet against Steed nicking a goal. Onwards and upwards.

Monday, August 18, 2008

National Anthems

A quick post for any of you that missed the Guardian's review of national anthems. This is certainly worth checking out even if you aren't following the Olympics. I also quite like the Haitian anthem which didn't make the top ten.

I don't think Haiti are likely to hear their anthem playing in Beijing, though they did get a silver medal in the Amsterdam 1928 games in the long jump....

While looking at this I saw that town planning, sculpture, painting, music and literature got Olympic medals up until 1948. This led to the oldest Olympic medallist, British graphic artist John Copley who was awarded the Silver medal for his design "Polo Player" at the age of 73.

The IOC no longer includes these within it's medal tables unfortunately, so the oldest sporting medal winner is counted as Oscar Swahn, who won two golds in shooting London 1908, but followed that up with a Silver in 1920 when he was 72 years old. This was in the team double shot running deer contest.

Enough stats for now.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

45 King

Slightly offbeat musical entry for today as I slowly recover from a round of alcoholic exertions on a Sunday.

I don't avidly follow Sky Sports' Soccer AM show, but I did catch the Showboat reel yesterday and was enjoying the accompanying music enough to find out that it was "P-Y-R-A-M-I-D" by 45 King vs. Wale. Certainly it was reminiscent of some old school hip-hop along the lines of De La Soul.

Anyway I looked it up (handy music section on their website) and there is a free "mix tape" mp3 download zip file here which I think is worth checking out. It actually appears that P-Y-R-A-M-I-D" is performed by 45 King vs. 4th Pyramid, but there you go.

Also watch out for the track "The 900 Number" which includes the killer sample from Chad Jackson's "Hear The Drummer (Get Wicked)", certainly a classic tune from my youth and if you want to see what CJ looks like (something of a surprise to me) you can catch up with him here. I don't know why he has a flower in his mouth. "Hear The Drummer (Get Wicked)" got to number three in the UK charts in June 1990, FYI. While I was at it I found this: Missy Elliott vs Chad Jackson on youtube, nice.

Hip-hop is not really my niche (I am not even sure this is the strictly correct classification of these 45 King tracks), and I will have to put together some kind of desert island disc song or album picks so that I can be roundly ridiculed, pitied and admired in turn....

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fighting Animals

One of my favourite random discussion topics concerns hypothetical fights between different animals. Things like Hippo vs. Black Bear, Gorilla vs. Great White yet National Geographic channel has not picked up this concept, and in reality I don't want to see a grisly gore show of creature violence, but it is the concept that appeals and finding out who would win. This would obviously depend on which particular animal was fighting, their size, the terrain and many other factors.

I am going off point, but I was interested to see that due to the shrinking Arctic ice Polar Bear vs. Greenland Shark may well become a more common battle. Here is the link (I won't spoil it by saying who won).

Friday, August 08, 2008

Two Oddly Placed Advertisements - Orangina & Condoms

I happened to be watching UKTV Food channel yesterday, for possibly the first time, watching Gary Rhodes cooking his way across China. I will freely admit I am not a fan of Mr. Rhodes (he never comes across as the nicest of people but he appears to be held in high regard by the food cognoscenti), but I am a fan of Chinese food.

Anyway the programme was OK, interesting insight into regional dishes, food street vendors being slowly cleared out of Hong Kong and no mention of any civil liberties being curtailed.

More importantly I saw two very unusual adverts during the programme. The first was for Orangina....Apparently this furry advert has been around for over 6 months but perhaps it is not deemed appropriate for the main terrestrial channels as it appears to show humanoid animal figures dancing and what some might call acting lasciviously. Whatever you want to call it, it is pretty weird, check it out for yourselves if you really want, here. I would like to know what the average viewer of Rhodes across China made of this, though I can just about see why this would be on UKTV Food channel.

The second advert was a standard advert to encourage young adults to wear a condom to gain respect and had some kids talking about sex. Fair enough, but it was really just the targeted demographic that I felt might be somewhat out of sync with the viewers for this programme. I just hope taxpayers money was not being spent broadcasting safe sex adverts to middle-aged foodies...and Gary Rhodes stalkers.

Anyway I thought it was odd, but maybe I am out of touch with young kids today and their enjoyment of culinary travel programmes....

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Cowon iAudio Q5

I really really want one of these.....

I am not generally that crazy about gadgets, I am not exactly an 'early adopter' and have no inclination to get myself an iphone, but this little beauty appears to have a lot going for it. 5 inch screen, compatable with most video codecs, touch screen scrolling and runs a basic version of windows to view documents. Could replace my Creative Zen: Vision, though that does have the advantage of an external battery pack...

Anyway the Q5 has been around for over 6 months and though available on Amazon and at Advancedmp3, it costs £350 which is a lot. I cannot really spend that sort of money without seeing one first hand but I am as yet to find a London stockist and owner reviews on the net are pretty limited.....If anyone has one of these please let me know!

Actually the Cowon website has just directed me to a stockist less than 500 metres from my workplace...ah.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

New Kid In Town

I heard about this on the BBC last week so thought I would have a look at a new search engine that has been launched: Cuil.

Apparently named after the Gaelic word for knowledge with a game plan of being 'different to Google' the site launched last week with a few issues. The main points of differentiation are that it references a larger number of sites than Google, it attempts to categorise the results and has some nifty loooking column layouts and rollover effects.

Pretty sure they will not be taking over as the number one search engine any time soon but sometimes it is good to try something different....

Car Alarms

Car alarms are almost completely pointless: discuss.

There is some background information you shoudl be aware of before reading this post. Firstly, I live in an area of South London where the occurence of the car alarm is pretty prevalant. Secondly, I am a very light sleeper and am woken by ridiculously quiet noises at the best oftimes. Thirdly, I now have a 2 month old baby who is somewhat difficult to get to sleep, and who, not unsurprisingly, does not enjoy listening to car alarms when asleep.

Luckily the car alarm that went off just outside our house last night only lasted for half an hour on and off and the little one went back to sleep but then i was kept awake for a short while considering the motivation behind car alarms.

As far as I can see. there can only really be three reasons to have a car alarm on; to startle the burglar, to draw attention to the vehicle in order to drive the burglar away and to let the owner know that the vehicle has been interfered with.

Now I don't have a problem with a car in a driveway or outside a house where the owner is in and can hear it. This is assuming he or she can be bothered to get up, check the car and turn the alarm off.

What I have a problem with is people who (day or night) leave their car behind somewhere with the alarm on. Again I would not have a problem if this alarm went off once for a maximum of five minutes to try and get rid of the potential thief/ vandal. The real problem is with individuals who are not around and who have alarms that go on ALL NIGHT LONG. There can be no need for this.

I can only assume that people do not realise that is what happens, or possibly more likely do not care as they are not around to be annoyed by it.

Just thought I would get that off my chest, and the same goes for house and shop alarms where people do not come and turn them off.....

Saturday, August 02, 2008

All Change For Tottenham

Well, it has certainly been an interesting week for Tottenham fans. I think I will have to break down and limit the length of my thoughts....

1) Keane off for £20m. Well, you have to say that is a decent amount of money and as has been previously proved, if a player wants to go, the odds are that he is off. Therefore overall this has to be seen as a situation well handled by Levy. As for Robbie himself the fans are split. I definitely cannot agree with some of the very aggressive comments on some fan sites stating that they would like to see him injured...there is definitely no call for that. He has given us goals, performances, effort and spent a large amount of time wagging his finger at referees. Overall he had finally won over some of his doubters in the last couple of seasons when partnered by Berbatov, but criticism that he missed too many chances and frequently lost the ball are not without basis. I like him, I had a Keane shirt on at Wembley in February and (to coin a cliche or two) he always gave 100% and liked to smile during the game. I wish him well but I just wish he hadn't given this quote after the cup final:

“I can’t see myself going anywhere or playing for anyone else now,” Keane told the London Evening Standard. “That is why I signed a long-term contract. I am more than happy here and I want to stay here for as long as I can. If I keep doing well and the club want me, then I am happy to stay here for the rest of my career.” (caveat: I am assuming this is real even though it is allegedly from the Evening Standard)

2. Bentley and the Russians. I have to say that I would prefer to see Lennon improving on the right wing but Bentley has some good skills. I think £8m would have been a fair price, but there you go. As for the Russians, I thought that this was more media manipulation by agents but it does seem that Arshavin really wants to come and be our 8th attacking midfielder....I can't wait for more Ossie analogies to appear in the press as the season starts....

3. A win over Celtic. Watched the match, standard friendly with a few stand-out points: Bale is quality, Zokora is not a right back, Bent can get goals if you play to his strengths, Dimitar still stamps his feet when his teammates aren't up to his standards, Modric had some nice touches, Benoit has been taking hair styling tips from Kevin The Prince, Ledley was on the pitch, Samaras appears to have taken to Scottish life by growing a beard....

I think that will do for now. I look forward to seeing if Capel, the Russians, a centre back and some kind of defensive minded midfielder will show up any time soon....