30 January 2014


You remember Kremlinologists? Back in the days of the cold war, these people used to look at the blank walls of the Russian government, and divine, almost magically, what was going on inside them: who was in, who was out, and what this meant for us, the Western world.

Looking back, it seems likely that their expertise was entirely self-proclaimed. Like the economic experts before 2008, they somehow failed to predict some fairly important things, but not before they'd made their fortunes by telling the American and British governments exactly what they wanted to hear.

Even Wikipedia is somewhat scathing about the Kremlinologists' techniques:

During the Cold War, lack of reliable information about the country forced Western analysts to "read between the lines" and to use the tiniest titbits, such as the removal of portraits, the rearranging of chairs, positions at the reviewing stand for parades in Red Square, the choice of capital or small initial letters in phrases such as "First Secretary", the arrangement of articles on the pages of the party newspaper "Pravda" and other indirect signs to try to understand what was happening in internal Soviet politics.
 So it seems this was an -ology with all the rigour and testability of feng shui.

Yet compared with valleyology it's an  exact, Newtonian science. There was a flurry of valleyology on twitter yesterday, where all the entrails seemed to point to a calamitous perestroika: Yann leaving; Powell overruled and likely to quit; relegation all but certain. Based on what? At one point the discussion revolved around how long a train journey to Bournemouth would take.I took it too seriously and it left me quite depressed.

Today, Chris Powell has addressed a press conference and, as always, a few words from the great man have made me feel better. Dale Stephens has gone and Yann may - nobody knows - still be going: A couple of players with excitingly unpronounceable names have come in. But still, a load of people are examining every word of the press conference, trying to read a message in the tealeaves. The Daily Mail ran a story saying Powell's position was in doubt, which seems to have been based solely on the alarmist tweets of last night.

Despite the kremlinologists, the Soviet empire collapsed, Germany reunited, Russia became more corrupt and Poland more priest-ridden than ever, and the letters CCCP are now just a stuttering tribute to our leader. They, the kremlinologists, got everything wrong. Valleyologists: look on their works, you might as well, and despair.

14 January 2014

Charlton 2 Oxford 2

I wonder what postmodern football looks like.  
Why do you do that, then?
Hang on, who are you? And what are you doing interrupting me in italics?
I'm your creation, you postmodernist fool. For some reason you've decided to write this post in the form of a dialogue. And by the way, I ask the questions. Carry on.
OK. Ask your next question. (I already know what it is, obviously.)
Postmodernism? Isn't that what passes for cleverness in television these days ...
Carry on.
Such as Sherlock
Yes! I'm so glad you mentioned that.
Can I nip out for a fag while you're telling everybody your views on Sherlock?
Fine. Five minutes should be plenty. The thing about Sherlock is that the first half is always rubbish, a bewildering mass of inept characterisation and clumsy exposition. It looks fantastic, but nothing is happening. You're tempted to watch something else. Then, in the second half, some actual plot comes along, some ideas, and for a while it all seems good, and the programme ends and you think that was good. But then, about half an hour later, you think no, actually, it was rubbish. What appeared to be a cleverly constructed plot was in fact all smoke and mirrors. Shit! you think, I've been conned. And you realise you've wasted 90 minutes of your scarce time on this earth.
Excuse me!
What? Back already?
Remembered I don't smoke. As you should have known. And I'm quite peeved that you've used italics. Italics are mine.
Sorry. Well?
You're claiming Sherlock was rubbish. You do realise this puts you in a scorned minority. Even the great Sam Wollaston ...
Don't get me started on him!
Sorry. But can I mention this is, notionally at least, a post about a football match?
Fair point. I'll keep this in note form. First half: rubbish, inept, bewildering, tempted to go home. Second half: some ideas, some skill, seems good. Half an hour later: realisation that rescuing a draw at home to Oxford Utd is rubbish. Shit. Conned.
Still. A cup run, eh?
Strictly speaking, a third round replay doesn't count as a cup run, but, yeah, I'll take it.