26 May 2012

Eurovision voting guide

The conventional thinking is that you have to be gay or pissed to enjoy the Eurovision Song Contest, but I've devised a way of keeping geeks like me interested. What you do, is score each entry according to the criteria below, and see who's your winner. You'll notice that musical excellence is not a factor. It's all about encouraging good practice and eliminating cheesiness. If you like cheesiness, just reverse all the rules. (I think that's what most national juries already do.)

1. Start by giving each song 10 points.

2. Add one point if the singer is female. (Or male, depending on your preference. If you're even more sexist than me, you can add points for shortness of skirt, tightness of trousers, etc.)

3. Deduct one point for use of a wind machine. (See left: the poor girl can barely stand up.)

4. Deduct one point for each key change. If the singing is so bad you can't tell if there's been a key change, deduct two points.

5. Deduct one point for each person other than the singer on stage. (The rules allow six people, which is why so many countries have five dancers. We should reward countries who are prepared to trust to the pure abilities of their singer. But what if there are two singers - twins, perhaps? See step 9.)

6. Add five points if the song is not in English. (Remember the days when songs had to be in each country's own language. Back then we only suspected the lyrics were all nonsense.)

7. Deduct three points for any song from the former Yugoslavia. (They'll all vote for each other, anyway, WHICH IS A GOOD THING: twenty years ago they were slaughtering each other. But they don't need our help now.)

8. Add up to a maximum of five points according to how much the singer and the song remind you of Kate Bush. (Again, you can tailor this to your own preference, choosing a singer you like. But I don't think you'll find many singers remind you of Nick Drake, for example.)

9. Deduct any remaining points if the singers happen to be Irish twins.

At the end of the show you should have a winner. But if it's Englebert Humperdinck, something's gone horribly wrong. So we need an emergency rule 10: deduct 10 points for any song in 3/4 time. Phew. Enjoy the show! But this does all seem a bit too much like hard work. I think I'll stick to plan A and just get pissed.

15 May 2012

Pardew, par dieu!

Alan Pardew's face is all over the football news today. This is the smallest photo I can find of him. Even so, it still makes me angry. And childish. I want to deface it, with comedy specs and a hitler moustache.
Strangely enough, these days I find Iain Dowie vaguely tolerable. Not to look at, obviously, though I can watch his lookalike, Adam Gorblimey off the Apprentice, without throwing up. Dowie was, we can now see, just a chancer. He took his limited skills and spun them into a nice little earner for himself. If it had been at any other team we'd have been cheering on his chutzpah, and waiting anxiously for the day he can wreck another decent club's finances and prospects. But we can feel satisfied because it doesn't look like anyone's ever going to put him in charge of a football team again.

And if Les Reed turned up at the Valley, I think he'd get a polite, if not effusive, welcome. He never had a chance, and although he had some decent skills (I know this, because his website said so), they weren't the ones Charlton needed. Everyone knew it, including him, and everyone was relieved when he heft.

But Pardew. Oh, the loathing I feel! It's partly, of course, because he promised so much. A former player, a hero on the pitch, he seemed to have all the credentials for the Charlton job. Now we see he was a false messiah. A very false messiah and a really naughty boy.

He managed to get his squad to underperform at every turn. Then slagged them off by getting in a string of loan players who clearly didn't care, and just collected their pay cheques. And then he tried to explain it all away by the bizarrest set of post-match comments any manager has ever uttered. They were bewildering times, and you felt he only lasted as long as he did because the cost of getting rid of him was unaffordable. But finally he did go, and no doubt his payoff added financial damage to the utter wreck he'd made of the team spirit.

And of course, what's really angering is the success he's now having at Newcastle. If it's just luck then it couldn't happen to a less deserving person. If it's skill, then where the hell was it when he was at Charlton? If he ever comes back to the Valley, we'll chant "Where were you when we were shit?" and know that the answer he should honestly give is "I was here. I was shitmaster general, thank you very much."

06 May 2012

Charlton 3 Hartlepool 2

My posts are usually quite short. It's not because I have a poet's gift for concision, the haikuist's ability to summarise a mood, a sight and a season in 17 syllables. Nope, it's because I'm lazy. But I think it might tax even the great Matsuo Bashō to summarise yesterday's sights and moods, never mind the season, in a short space. Just use the word "parachutists" and four of your syllables have gone. So, prepare for a long post. Make a cup of tea, if you like, and comfort yourself with the fact it's going to be the last for three months.

During the morning, I'd seen updates of the travelling Hartlepool smurf army. One general theme of the day was that one thing we'll miss about League One is the fans. There may not be many of them, but they have a honest dedication that you don't always find among the bigger teams. The best photo was this one, from Kings Cross station, and what's best about it is the people on the right, acting as if this is a normal sight on the Underground. Just ignore it, like the Football League Show was certain to do.

I got to the Valley over an hour before the game began. So did a lot of other people. There was a buzz in Floyd Road that hasn't been there for many years, with a huge queue outside the shop. I thought about going to the pub, but the afternoon's events were about to begin, and I didn't want to miss a thing.

The first of many of the day's delights was reading, in the excellent programme, that one of Chris Powell's musical choices would be Kate Bush. He said "People may laugh at me but I absolutely love Kate Bush. It doesn't suit me at all, but I do."  And there was me thinking I couldn't love the man any more than I already did.

The pre-match sequence got underway with some pitchside interviews, and then some operaoke from Martin Toal and Rose Jang. I'd be really interested to know how Rose Jang came to be there. She's a Korean American from Princeton and although she apparently studied at Goldsmith's for a time, she's not previously shown any Charlton affiliation. Their performances were rousing, in their way, but with a few too many truck driver's gear changes for my liking. I'd have been happier with more Victoria Stanyon, not least, I must admit, because she was looking stunning. If I were to describe in detail what was so attractive about her, people might form an unfortunately accurate opinion of me.

Then the special surprise. There'd been loads of rumours that it would involve Pixie Lott and a helicopter, but the real giveaway had been that someone had seen the Red Devils parachutists were booked for a function at Charlton on Saturday. A man in red was on the pitch earlier, apparently mending a tear in the turf with duct tape. And at about 2:50 five of his mates staged the only kind of pitch invasion you can get away with these days.

By this time, all the smurfs had arrived, and were greeted with a standing ovation from the home fans.

All this, and the football hasn't even started yet.

The first half was a bit flat, to be honest. Johnnie Jackson was subbed quite early, and with Scott Wagstaff moving to the left, Charlton didn't have the shape they needed. Hartlepool didn't threaten much but scored the only goal of the half from a corner. No-one cared that much.

At half-time a thunderous ovation for Alan Curbishley.

The football really started after half-time, particularly after Bradley Pritchard came on after 65 minutes. Let's just stop and consider him for a while. A year ago he was playing for Hayes and Yeading. Next year he'll be in the Championship, another example of Charlton's superb recruitment drive last summer. Three goals in ten minutes - the last an exquisite volley by Kermorgant - saw the game won, and no-one could have begrudged Hartlepool their second when there were about five minutes remaining.

In some ways the result didn't matter. But it meant Charlton had 101 points. We all know how good they've been this season, but now it's typographically obvious for ever, as they are one of only 8 teams to need three digits in their points total. (Actually, it looks even better in binary: 1100101).

The final whistle ushered in the only shambolic moments of the day. There was some confusion over the erection of the display stand, and the "lap of honour" was more like a disorganised stroll in a park. Understandable, really, it's not as if Charlton have much experience of organising victory celebrations. Again, nobody cared. By this stage Pixie Lott could have jetpacked naked into the stadium and no-one would have noticed.

Chris Powell made a moving speech. The North Stand sang "we've got our Charlton back" and everyone finally drifted away, dreaming of what next year might bring.

Yesterday was a wonderful climax to a wonderful season. THANK YOU, CHARLTON! THANK YOU, THE BOARD, THE STAFF, THE TEAM! THANK YOU, CHRIS POWELL!