Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Good writing - less is more

I love this list of 10 rules of writing from the late great Elmore Leonard. I was reminded to share it after I read an excellent blog by my pal Neil Tague. 

The link is here.

A flavour is here: "Time is a truly precious commodity, thus brevity when it comes to writing is, to my mind, something to be treasured. There are loads of US writers I won’t go near, despite a welter of recommendations, because I really can’t be bothered with another bloated, overly wordy attempt at writing the Great American Novel. It’s as if once a writer has established a reputation and can be considered “box office” their work can’t be touched by an uppity editor. Balls to that – most novels could lose 50 pages at least without it having any detrimental effect. Films too, but let’s not go there."

Less is more.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The football debate - only ever going to be one winner, but a spirited try

It’s a tough job sticking up for football. The charge sheet against the so-called beautiful game is long. Indeed, at our DISCUSS debate on Wednesday the 15th of January, Dr Annabel Kiernan outline a fairly chunky list of reasons why she was arguing for the motion that it is the beautiful game no more. Football has sold its soul.

In his quite stunning oratory against the motion Professor Tom Cannon of Liverpool University didn’t actually try and argue that it was in fact still beautiful, rather that it never was. We’ve become seduced by nostalgia and a sepia toned view of the past, that has allowed us to forget the crooks that ran football, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool in the olden days.

But winning the emotional argument was TV’s Graeme Hawley, actor and Coventry City supporter who delivered a heartfelt plea for the motion based on his own club’s perspective – playing 35 miles away in another city – something the FA had done nothing to prevent.

Like I said, the job of defending all of this was left to Colin Bridgford of the Manchester FA. Fair play to him for evoking the schemes in the community. The great transformative things that the influx of money has enabled football to do.

But there remained an elephant in the room – the Premier League with all its money, pricing out the fans, accepting foreign owners with no respect for what matters to fans – well, the audience weren’t having it. Colin got a hard time when the questions came – and from all kinds of supporters.

In the end the motion was carried – some waverers were won over. But it was a mountain to climb, despite a plucky and audacious opening the odds were against an upset. Rather like the one the Blackburn Rovers team faced in the second half of the game that followed the debate.  There was only ever going to be one outcome.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The 2014 reading pile

It's all here - history, politics, religion, fiction, football and music.
I'm currently rattling happily through David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell and have dipped into some of the others. I failed to nail last year's pile. But as an experiment in human nature and perseverance I will do these over all others, and soon. But necessarily in the order they are stacked in.

Friday, January 03, 2014

The Beautiful Game No More - football has sold its soul. Discuss.

You could wax lyrical all day about football and how the beautiful game is no more. I must admit, I fall out of love with it all the time, but it's part of me and there is still something amazing about every game I go to. 

This project I've been involved with - Discuss - has at its core, a mission to help facilitate debate about life and the passions of the people of the North.

We've had some belters so far - social media, HS2, Thatcher and Manchester.

Our next debate is about football and it will bring together fans, people in and around football and a special celebrity appearance in the shape of TV's Graeme Hawley who as well as being John Stape in Coronation Street is also an unhappy Coventry City supporter.

It's taking place on the 15th of January at The Memorial Hall, Albert Square Chop House, Albert Square, Manchester, M2 5PF
Doors open at 6pm, debate starts at 6.30pm. We finish formal proceedings at at 8pm. We then encourage after show Digressions. Tickets are priced at £7.

The way it works is that each side has 8 minutes each for their two speakers to make arguments for and against the motion.

Argument for the motion
A game beset by greed, finance and the worst excesses of human nature. Football has become tainted and distorted. Top class football, especially in the Premier League, the so-called richest league in the world, has become a rich man’s plaything. It is no longer within the reach of ordinary people. It can no longer claim to be the beautiful game.

The argument against
On the other hand, football is the most popular sport on the planet. It has the power to inspire and transform lives. The amount of money coming into the game is a reflection of this. And at its essence is the beauty of the simple game – two teams playing to the same rules all over the world.

For the motion
Graeme Hawley, actor known for his role as John Stape in Coronation Street and Coventry City supporter.
Dr Annabel Kiernan, senior teaching and learning fellow, Department of History, Politics and Philosophy) and director of The Centre for the Study of Football and its Communities (CSFC) based at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Against the motion
Professor Tom Cannon is Professor of Strategic Development at the University of Liverpool Management School. He is considered to be an expert on Sports finance, economics and business notably professional sports.
Colin Bridgford, chief executive of the Manchester County FA.

Tickets are just £7 - get them here.

Getting through a reading pile

It just doesn't work like that does it? Still, I read MOST of the books in this pile, but significantly the best ones of the year weren't even in here.

Really enjoyed
The Slap
Max Hastings on the Second World War
Agents, Rovers and Cricket Loving Owners by Michael Blackburn
I'm not really here by Paul Lake
NW by Zadie Smith
The last Christopher Hitchens book, Mortality.

Just never got round to the rest. Will try. And will build a new tower soon.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Same old Arsenal?

When I lived in London, Arsenal were my local team for the most part. To this day it's the only ground I've seen Rovers play at and walked home afterwards. There is a theory too that you should support the team you were born nearest - that would nudge my eldest son Joe towards the Gunners, but he's for the Rovers still.

Since the Arsenal moved from Highbury, I haven't managed to get to their spectacular new stadium, named after a Middle Eastern airline. Architecturally, it is a colossus, rising with real presence out of a complex urban mismatch of uses and serving to lift the area, rather than simply plonk down in the middle of a wasteland as the City of Manchester Stadium does. It also symbolises and represents the transformation of modern football, bigger, quieter, catering for the fan as a consumer. The seats were the most comfortable I've sat in at football, the leg room the best, the sight line perfect. The crowd definitely seemed even more gentrified than the new breed at Manchester City and the prawn sardine brigade at Old Trafford. Note: we were in good seats, but not corporate. One female fan near us was loud mouthed, passionate and frankly a bit of a berk. Most other people were supportive, but sedate, highlighting her boorishness even more.

The football was a reminder of what we were used to in the Premier League - a gutsy lower table side trying to out fight and defend against an infinitely more skillful Big Club. 2-0 was cruel on Cardiff, but we were pleased to see goals. Joe's prediction of the 1-0 to the Arsenal, as the old song went, looked the most likely outcome throughout.

That was my 138th ground on which I've watched football and the 66th of the current 92. There are very few easy to reach stadiums to get to now from the 92 - though we could chalk off Morecambe and Fleetwood soon.

Massive thanks to Joe's Godfather John Dixon for taking us and to our old pal Mark Sibley for letting us keep his seat warm.