Wednesday, 26 September 2012

closing tabs

So much good stuff. In no particular order:

1. I know you think I go on about The Dazzle all the time, but somehow, inexplicably, I didn't know about the VIntage book covers blog which talked about it a while ago. I have now also spent a happy period looking at other designs by the brilliant Kolchoz. My favourite book cover currently on site is this one:

2. At dinner the other night, I was told about the univocal poetry of Luke Wright (not the England cricketer). Meek begins:

Seven PM,
we’re here – Stepney
pre-weekend beers
extended sesh
meek Drew meets gentle Beth
he resembles Dexter Fletcher
her eyes gelled green
she’s Renne Zellweger meets Betty Spencer
svelte yet sexless...
3.  JK Rowling gets a lot of stick. 'Why so much attention?', etc. Every time I read an interview with her, I think: I like her and what she is up to. For example.

4. Fun Slate story by Dave McKenna about cheating at chess.

5. Amazing true cancer story, also via Slate, this time David Plotz discussing it on the Political Gabfest.

6. Steve Sabol died last week. Most of you don't know who he is. He was the genius - absolutely the right word - behind NFL films. He invented the way American football is watched and, frankly, understood. He was a brilliant humaniser and storyteller. It's not an easy job to turn armoured men into real characters, but he found ways to do it. He was also, from everything you hear, an brilliant boss and a totally honourable human being. I have posted this clip regularly, but you might have missed it or not clicked on it. Seriously, watch it. If you have watched it before, watch it again.

Friday, 21 September 2012

babushka, by one russian doll, out of another russian doll, and so on

Why am I still going on about this novel, in spite of the horrible UK cover? On page one, two of the characters introduced are, Epic Steam, by Land of Magic, out of Pure Money, by Mr Prospector and Bay colt, by Lake of the Woods, out of Wayward, by Independence. Oh boy!

People who get this might want to know that next Thursday is the live try-out for Warhorses of Letters, series 2, episode 4 - WATERLOO. It's at Tall Tales, at The Good Ship in Kilburn. If you want to come, please email talltalesnight at gmail dot com. Also appearing are Benet Brandreth, Toby Davies, Gareth Edwards, John Finnemore, Amy Shindler and Tim Sutton. I bet I've forgotten someone.

As for the rest of Horse Heaven, I absolutely loved it. One possible reason it might have appealed to me so strongly is that it's not a book for horse fans in the same way as The Kilburn Social Club is not a book for football fans. Some people will never get past the fact of horses in one case and football in the other, and that's fine, but every book has to have a setting and these are dramatic ones that are revelatory of their wider cultures. I am saying, in saying this, nothing about the relative qualities of the books.

The US cover is much nicer, but the book seems to be out of print in the US because the world is a crazy place.

Monday, 17 September 2012

hey, is everything changing round here?

Nope. At some point in the next few months they will, and everything will look tidier and spiffier, but I am in the middle of [insert many things here].

The big change you are probably noticing is that tiny picture on the right, which echoes the bigger one above. Yes, yes, you can finally pre-order my second novel. I would do so if I were you. I really like the cover. One title that was deemed by everyone, including me, to be too glib, is Fish and Superfish. It was a process similar in structure to that whereby The Great Gatsby was not named Gold-hatted Gatsby. We will not go into the dissimilarities.

Do you remember I was going to write about what I read on my holidays? Well, I haven't got round to that yet, as you may have noticed. Since then, though, inspired by having loved Jane Smiley's Moo I have read her Horse Heaven, which appears to be out of print in the UK, and which appears to have a terrible UK cover. I have seldom read a book which was more my cup of tea. I absolutely loved it. This week, my favourite character in all fiction is a horse called Justa Bob.


Friday, 7 September 2012

the greatest moldovan who never was

Tonight, England play Moldova at football, whose footballers are more famous to most readers of this blog, I bet, for having played Tony Hawkes at tennis.

Will Masal Bugduv be playing? In early 2009, The Times reported that the 16 year-old was ‘Moldova’s finest’ and listed him as number 30 in its list of rising stars. They said he was linked with Arsenal.

Oops. Masal Bugduv doesn't exist. Someone created him using fake Wikipedia pages and AP reports. The hoaxster was almost certainly Irish. The linked piece is by my favourite football writer, Grantland's Brian Phillips, who elsewhere pointed out that Masal Bugduv sounds very similar to the Irish pronunciation of M'asal Beag Dubh (My Little Black Donkey), a story by the Irish-language writer Pádraic Ó Conaire about a dishonest salesman who seeks an exaggerated price for a lazy donkey.*

In bonus Moldovan sporting trivia: at the Underwater Hockey World Championships in Hobart in 2000, the Moldovan men lost to Colombia 30-0 and Arg 23-0. They didn’t really know how to put on their fins and flippers. Then they went and filed for (and received) refugee status.

Two years later in Calgary, the Moldovan women’s team didn’t turn up to its first match because they were all also filing for refugee status. Each woman on the team had paid organisers $1200.

The Baltimore Sun article on this is funny:

Yes, underwater hockey is a real sport. The players wear fins, masks and snorkels, and they use little hockey sticks to push a weighted puck around the bottom of a swimming pool. At least that's what they claim they're doing down there; they could also be building a life-size replica of Keanu Reeves out of Legos. There's no way for the spectators to tell.


According to an anonymous source who was interviewed by the CBC on camera wearing a diving mask for disguise (I am still not making this up) and identified only as "Deep Trout," some members of the Moldovan team "couldn't even swim."

* Incidentally, BP's recent essay on Serena Williams is right up there with anything I have ever read about tennis, including David Foster Wallace on Federer and (I preferred this one) Michael Joyce. I have elevated Williams to Nemesis status, alongside Josh Levin and Mike Tanier.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

pants on fire

Paul Ryan is Mitt Romney's Vice Presidential candidate because he brings some ideas to Romney's endlessly vacillating table. He seems like a a conviction Conservative and that's fine. Politics should be a battle between ideas.

Except Paul Ryan's ideas are based on made up facts and impossible economics (agree economists across the spectrum). He made a barnstorming convention speech but was it just a load of big, fat lies? The New York TimesAtlantic and FOX NEWS(!) said it was.

People will probably just say, 'All politicians are as bad as each other!' This is not true. The difference between lies like Ryan's and the selective truths spoken by most politicians are very real, but they are complicated and most people don't have the time or energy to think them through.

However, last week Ryan told a hilarious big, fat lie about running a marathon in under 3 hrs. This is a serious time, and any runner of a marathon knows it. He actually ran a marathon in just over 4hrs. Why does this matter? It shows to people without the time to sift the economic stuff that this is a guy who really is a liar. About all kinds of stuff.

Bonus 1: There was a great New Yorker piece on another marathon liar a few weeks ago. This dentist's fibs included taking short cuts and inventing the West Wyoming marathon. If you wear the West Wyoming finishers t-shirt above to a meeting of serious runners, they will find it funny. Here are more of their jokes on this theme.

Monday, 3 September 2012

woah! sharks!

This is one of the many inflatable sharks to which (whom) I have access. Isn't he a cheery fellow? He certainly doesn't look dangerous.

Oh, but what is this!


Were I better and more diligent photo essayist, I would have pictured all the many dangers the shark features. Of course you can see that the above warnings would barely be enough to call a shark at least even slightly dangerous, and I was at least diligent enough to photograph the rest of them.

Something to note. When you are blowing up your shark, you must be careful to do it to 100%. And then +1. 

Another thing to note is that the shark provides NO PROTECTION AGAINST DROWNING. I am absolutely certain that this is not true.

Anyway, I had a great holiday. I read some books. I'll tell you about them in the next few days. I cannot believe I had never read any Jane Smiley. I started with Moo and it was a crackerjack.