Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Been busy lately....

“I also expect England to win, no matter which XI they put on the field.”

Words come back to haunt me…  England won the toss and batted making 257 built around a long overdue century from Cook.  Ali was the only other batsman to pass 50 and most observers thought this total was way short of par but the pitch was taking spin.  In reply Blackwood top scored with 88, Jimmy took six wickets and WI were all out for 189.  England’s spinners were poor and again many people thought England could have done better.

England’s second innings was a cock up, all out for 123 but a lead of 191 might be enough?  Bravo scored 82 and Blackwood was unbeaten on 47 to lead West Indies to a five wicket win.  Once again England’s spinners were ineffective.

So the series ended all square which may have flattered WI but the scorebook doesn’t lie.  Like many people I have a great affection for the West Indies teams of days gone by and I would like to see them back competing at the top in test cricket.  This side looks like it has plenty of talented young players but I’ve thought this many times over the last twenty years!

As for England well Trotty has retired saying he no longer feels he is playing at a high enough level for international cricket.  Trott has been a big part of one of England’s greatest sides and a decent man on and off the field.  He has bowed out at the right time and leaves the international arena with honour and integrity intact.  Adam Lyth looks next in line to get a go as Cook’s opening partner.

England struggled to bowl WI in this series and only Anderson looked anywhere near best.  We played three all rounders, none of whom really looked capable of bowling out international teams.  Stokes, Jordan and Woakes (when fit) are all too similar and only one of the three should play at any time.  Ali simply isn’t good enough with bat or ball and has to make way.  England need to select a bowler who can bowl consistently fast and threatening, who?  That’s anyone’s guess right now.  England also need a world class spinner, anyone seen Monty lately?  Maybe this defeat is just the wake up call England’s selectors need?

Last weekend saw the richest boxing match in history.  I’ve not seen enough of either Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather to judge but most of the public wanted Manny to win by knockout while most seasoned observers picked Floyd to win on points, which he duly did.  By all accounts the hype far outweighed the action.  Mayweather is an unlikeable woman beating thug who has proclaimed himself the world’s best ever.  He is technically a great boxer but he does not compare to the subject of a book I read recently.

Muhammad Ali – A portrait in words in pictures by Wilfred Sheed
Before I start I have to confess that I love Ali.  As far as I’m concerned he is the greatest heavyweight boxer that will ever draw breath and I admire him enormously as a human being.  I was a kid in the seventies, what would you expect?

This is an old book in good condition that I added to my Ali collection recently.  It was produced in 1975 shortly after Muhammad had defeated George Foreman to regain the title.  It concentrates on Ali at the peak of his fame, Ali the ‘Black Muslim’, Ali the poet and comedian, Ali the media darling and Ali the great boxer.  It tries to analyse the ‘greatest’ and explain the man behind the myth.
This book was written before the damaging fight with Joe Frazier in Manilla, before the career stretched on way too long and long before the onset of Parkinson’s syndrome.  This book was written without any clue as to how Ali would become in his later years, (arguably greater for his afflictions?)  It predicts a bright future for Muhammad after his boxing career come to a close.  It makes sad reading in this context.

The author Wilfred Sheed attempts to analyse the various facets of Ali’s life and character; how has his early life and family shaped him?  Is his religion genuine?  Is he an intelligent man or an idiot faking it?  Once again the forty years that have passed since this book was published have answered all those questions.  In this context the author himself comes across as an egomaniac.  At times this book is easy to read and I skipped through the pages quickly but at others it’s a bit dull.  There are loads of great photographs throughout and it is a welcome addition to my collection of ‘Ali books’ which now numbers ten at last count.

A couple of weeks ago I took Isaac to see “Avengers – Age of Ultron” at the cinema.  Isaac loves this kind of superhero action movie, I can take them or leave them but he’s dragged me along to see lots of them.  This one is all action from beginning to end, always plenty going on and Scarlet Johansson for eye candy.  Samuel L. Jackson is the coolest man in Hollywood and he pops up in the nick of time too.  Isaac loved it and I thought it was pretty good too.

I’m happy to say Maddie has shunned the boy-band nonsense enjoyed by most of her peers and is a lover of Punk rock.  This is something the two of us have in common and nowadays we are often trading CD’s.  One of our favourite bands is Nirvana, led by the late great Kurt Cobain.  Anyone who was around in the early nineties and enjoys real music must be aware of Nirvana. Some may have been put off by the volume and attitude, if so I urge you to look beyond this and embrace it for your own sake.  Kurt’s music is timeless and it works at full volume or turned down a little.  This shared love of music gave me an excuse to take my daughter to the cinema.
Montage of Heck” is a documentary of Kurt’s life made from private family footage filmed on ‘super 8’ as well as clips of tour diaries and over unseen footage from the Cobain estate.  His parents, family, girlfriends and band mates contribute too.  There are animated sequences filling in some of the gaps from early in his life.  There are bizarre, disturbing animations made from Kurt’s own sketchbooks which are disturbing at times, maybe reflecting the demons in his head.  

The film is everything you would expect; dark & disturbing, beautiful and moving, shocking and unpredictable.  Kurt’s addiction is not glossed over and it certainly isn’t glamorised.  The concert footage makes the hair stand up on your neck.  The film finishes a few weeks before “the end” but we know what happened, at the time it felt inevitable and there is no need to replay it.  Maybe we are a bit nearer to understanding why.  If you love Kurt, go see the film.  If you don’t go see it anyway.

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