Archive for February, 2017

Oscar Time Again

Friday, February 24th, 2017

I make no excuses, but I am a movie buff and it’s easily my favorite art form. I used to love watching the Oscar Ceremony  to see if my favorite movie, actor or actress (non-politically correct) won the award. But we have given them a miss these past few years due to Hollywood narcissism, ill-considered and unnecessary political speeches, and diabolical hosts.

What is most disturbing this year is the unjust  accusation  of the Black Community that they are not adequately represented in the nominations.  Codswallop!!! Three of the movies (33%) deal with the lives of black people. That is a reasonably favorable percentage when you consider only 13% of  America’s population are black.

Ten nominations for Best Picture:

Arrival: My wife was anticipating another Independence Day with aliens arriving in spaceships, but nothing much happens. I believe it was the first movie I’ve seen her doze off. I liked it primarily because it stars Amy Adams, but Amy apart what was it’s purpose?

Lion: Based on a true story, it is  the “Prince and Pauper” story but with only one boy; lost on a train in India a thousand miles from home, and years later attempts to discover his natural family. One of the few nominations that has a happy ending.

Hell Or High Water: Modern day western which is only memorable for Jeff Bridges speaking throughout the movie as if  gargling with a mouthful of marbles. Another of those movies where you have no sympathy for the characters and basically you don’t care what happens to them.

Hidden Figures: True story about black lady mathematicians working on the space program. It is  heartwarming and inspirational.

Manchester By The Sea: A thoroughly slow paced depressing movie which features the “other” Affleck brother, Casey.  Michelle Williams plays Affleck’s ex-wife in the movie and you can always rely on Ms. Williams to give a depressing performance.

Moonlight: Oh boy, yet another depressing movie which tells the story of a gay black person who becomes a drug dealer. Following the theme of several of this year’s nominees, it is agonizingly slow.

Fences: formerly a stage play starring and directed by Denzel Washington. Features a lot of talking confined to rooms in the protagonist’s house and back porch. It is a play placed on the big screen, and with that format in mind it is yet another of this year’s nomination which is slow paced,

Hacksaw Ridge: Directed by the bad boy of Hollywood, Mel Gibson. Another true story of a World War 2 pacifist, Doss, played by Andrew “Spiderman” Garfield. It is a fascinating account of one man standing by his convictions against unspeakable opposition, and finally overcoming them with heroism and humility.

La La Land: By all accounts you have to be doo lally to watch this movie. It’s a simple story, riddled with clichés and written thousands of times in Hollywood. Boy meets girl and predictably it’s cheesy.

AND THE WINNER IS: La La Land. Wait a minute, no it isn’t. Those narcissistic, pampered, self-indulgent, overvalued Hollywood Liberals have screwed up. Blame wrinkly Warren Beatty and plastic faced Faye Dunaway if you will, allowed out of their rest home for the night, but they were the fall guys in this farce. The Oscar is ripped from the clammy paws of the La La Land producer, and handed to the cast of Moonlight. Don’t you just hate that little weasel, Jimmy Kimmel?

Black Hat, Purple Cool

Friday, February 17th, 2017

The last ten days or so have been quite traumatic for my favorite sports teams on either side of the Atlantic. On the morning of the Super Bowl, Swansea City travelled to Manchester “Millionaires” City in more hope than expectation. Yes, they had won their previous two matches and had clawed their way out of the relegation zone, but playing Man City away is a tall order. The first half proved to be a startling exercise in survival. City scored early in the game, and I was fully expecting the flood gates to open. But to their credit the Swans defended doggedly with shades of desperation at times, and despite City having 82% of the possession, the score remained unchanged at half time.

The Swans played more positively in the second half, and received their reward when Siggurdson scored the equalizer with a perfectly placed shot into the corner of the net.  A valuable point appeared to be secured, but a late lapse in concentration by the Swans defense allowed City to snatch the winner well into injury time.

I was a little disappointed with the result, but nothing compared to the devastation I was to experience later in the day. The Atlanta Falcons were playing in only their second Super Bowl in their less than illustrious 50 year history. Their opponents, New England Patriots, on the other hand, are the Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid of the NFL. They expect to make it to the Super Bowl every year.

The game began very well for the Falcons who completely dominated the first half, and at half time comfortably led the Patriots 21-3. The Falcons began the second half in similar fashion, and quickly scored another touchdown to take a seemingly unassailable lead of 28-3 over their opponents. The Patriots replied with a couple of field goals, and the fourth quarter resumed with Atlanta leading 28-9. Our champagne was on ice and we were dying to pop the corks. Not so fast young man!!!

What happened in the fourth quarter defies belief. The Patriots scored 19 unanswered points to tie the game and take the game into overtime. The Patriots duly won the toss and scored another touchdown to win the Super Bowl in devastating fashion. There are a number of possible reasons why the Falcons capitulated. I didn’t read or watch media coverage for over a week because it was too painful to listen or watch the talking head analyse why the Falcons provided the worst collapse in Super Bowl history.

New England Patriots’ James White scores the winning touchdown between Atlanta Falcons’ Jalen Collins, left, and Robert Alford during overtime of the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston.

Its over a week now since our calamitous defeat, and I’ve had time to try and make some sense of what went wrong. I believe it was a combination of factors. Surprisingly our offense was only on the field for a total of twenty minutes which meant the Patriots offense controlled the ball for the other sixty minutes. Consequently, as well as they played in the first half, our defense was completely exhausted in the final quarter. Matt Ryan also came under ferocious pressure in the final quarter and looked like a deer in headlights. It didn’t help matters, that Center Alex Mack played on one leg! The offensive Coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, also made some horrendous decisions on his play calling. In essence the Falcons were playing not lose in the final quarter and in doing so the momentum of the game dramatically swung in the Patriots favor.

I thought the following Saturday may bring some light relief in my sporting calendar when another of my favorite teams, Tottenham Hotspur, were playing Liverpool at Anfield which incidentally has never been a happy hunting ground  for the Spurs. Saturday was no exception, and Spurs meekly surrendered and lost 0-2, and it could have been much worse.

Into the evening, and the curse of the bambino continued. Wales were entertaining England at the Millinium Stadium who were full of confidence following a fifteen match unbeaten run. Wales played well for sixty minutes and deservedly led the auld enemy from across the Severn Bridge. However, the theme of my sporting week decided to intervene yet again, and England scored a try in the dying minutes to snatch victory from  the jaws of defeat.

Sunday morning, and the Swans were on the big screen yet again playing at home to the Champions Leicester City. Leicester have been performing more like chumps this season, and were on the same number of points as the Swans both of whom were hovering just above the relegation zone. I can be a bit of a masochist on times, and decided to complete my sporting set of failures and watch the game in a fatalistic mood.

Lo and behold, there is light at the end tunnel. The Swans scored two stunning goals in the first half, and ran out comfortable winners. On New Year’s Eve, they were languishing at the bottom of the league and about to sack their American manager, Bob Bradley and appoint their third manager of the season, Paul Clement. They are not out the woods yet, but Clement has given this beleaguered fan hope and the possibility they can remain in the Premiership. Hopefully, something can be salvaged from a season which was beginning to resemble a train wreck.



Christmas in Devon

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

Two Thousand and Sixteen will probably be most remembered for the surprising BREXIT vote, TRUMP’s stunning victory over Hilary Clinton in the US Presidential Election,  WALES’ magnificent performance in reaching the semi-finals of the European Championships, and Britain’s  best ever haul of medals at the RIO OLYMPICS.

But for me, 2016, has a unique significance. I was able to spend Christmas Day with my son and daughter for the first time in 30 years. I also  had the valuable bonus of four grandchildren contributing to the celebration and entertainment. The reasons for the protracted absence are no longer important. Suffice to say that Christmas 2016 was that much sweeter being surrounded by nearest and dearest.

Before driving to Devon, my wife and I made a detour to Wales to visit old friends in my home town of Swansea, which sadly has taken a decidedly turn for the worse since I left over 20 years ago. Fortunately, the jewel in the crown, the Gower Peninsula has survived relatively unscathed, and Mumbles has an exciting new development on its seafront. We stopped for lunch at the Blue Anchor, a 14th Century  public house in the Vale of Glamorgan. The food, beer and atmosphere are second to none, and we were forced to drag ourselves away.

The following day,we made a nostalgic trip to the Joiner’s Arms in Bishopston on our way back from Gower. I didn’t realize it enjoyed its own brewery situated to the rear of the building, and the local brew is highly recommended. You won’t find the Joiner’s listed on any good pub guide, but it’s nostalgic because I escorted my wife there on her first visit to Wales over 26 years ago. They say nothing  changes, and that can be attributed to the landlord who remains a miserable old sod!!

Anyway I digress once again writing these posts. Leaving “Jacks” country we proceeded east towards the Principality’s capital, Cardiff which has evolved into a glamorous Cinderella at the expense of its nearest rival, Swansea relegated to the role of the ugly sisters. We stayed the night at my brother’s abode, and he made us a fabulous Welsh breakfast of lava bread,cockles, smoky bacon, and fried egg.

We were finally on the road to Devon, and a few hours later were the recipients of a wonderful welcome from two of my grandchildren. The next day we went to see the Christmas Pantomime in Paignton, featuring Cinderella and starring Aiden J. Harvey, Anita Harris (I thought she was dead) and Tom Owen, son of the late Bill Owen who was one of the original actors in “Last of the Summer Wine.”  You can keep your Aladdins, Jacks in the Beanstalk, Robinson Crusoes, Pusses in Boots (?) whatever; Cinderella is my favorite pantomime. “Oh no it isn’t, oh yes it is!”

Christmas Eve arrived, and so did my son with two more grandchildren. The day proved to be the calm before the storm in a delightful way. My wife prepared a delectable lasagna for Christmas Eve dinner and my daughter laid the foundations for Father Christmas’s arrival with four children hanging onto her every word. Surprisingly they went to bed without much fuss, but maybe they were gearing up for the arrival of Santa.

Christmas morning duly arrived, but an early stampede by the children didn’t materialize. In fact, they were very civilized as they calmly made their way down the stairs at 7.00am to be met by a cacophony of gifts that almost smothered the Christmas tree. They soon got to work on tearing the wrapping paper from the multitude of gifts that Father Christmas had delivered. One of the grandchildren exclaimed: “I saw a couple of Santa’s reindeers on the roof last night!”

It was not long before the kids were immersed in reams of wrapping paper; their eyes looked like saucers, wide open with anticipation,delight and amazement, moving swiftly from one gift to another like a plague of locusts devouring a crop. The two younger grandchildren were finally overwhelmed by the occasion and  sought refuge on the couches while the adults surveyed the carnage, but content with a job well done. My younger grandson quickly recovered, however, and ran around in an incredible hulk costume bashing anything and everything in his path.

The adults gratefully accepted bacon butties for breakfast as their reward for endeavors, and happy to take a time out before preparing Christmas lunch. My daughter took charge of the food prep and I was more or less banished from the kitchen. I did earn a recall later in the afternoon to make the turkey gravy, but was quickly asked to leave the dining area for the ladies to set the table. The turkey dinner proved to be a master piece although we could done with a gallon more gravy. I forgot the Brits love gravy much more than their Transatlantic cousins.

On a personal note, I really enjoyed the home made Christmas pudding and Christmas cake with marzipan and icing just the way my late mum used to make. Christmas lunch is not complete without crackers and we weren’t disappointed. I also managed to cram a couple of mince pies in there somewhere, and a  gorgeous pate  served for supper completed an excellent culinary day.

I don’t know about my fellow adults, but I do know  my grandchildren had a whale of a time, and I had an unforgettable and fabulous Christmas experience. Same again next year folks?