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Cycling Books 2012

Accompanied by an exclusive illustration of Victoria Pendleton by the artist Lilly Allen for The Substantive, Mark Perryman declares Cycling ‘Sport of the Year’ and chooses his favourite books from 2012 inspired by life on two wheels. Details of The Substantive t-shirt with a Lilly Allen design at the bottom of this piece.

Never mind the BBC hyped-up hoopla of ‘Sports Personality of the Year’, for most successful British sport of 2012 surely nothing comes close to cycling. An extraordinary first, and second, places for British riders in the Tour de France, a hatful of medals in the Olympic velodrome, more on the road too, and by the autumn a new generation of winners breaking through on the track in the World Cup series too. The achievements, matched by an explosion of popular participation is truly breathtaking. Continue reading…

Cosmic Trigger Happy

What a strange club Chelsea are. Their whole history is defined by the nine-and-a-half years of their current owner, which now consists of nine managers and counting in which they have won a few trophies but few friends.

Roman Abramovich’s ambition has always been to align attractive football with European dominance. But his methods of aggressive headhunting have failed him. He brought in Peter Kenyon from Manchester United as a Chief Executive, poached Tottenham Hotspur’s Director of Football, Frank Arnesen, and later tried to buy Steven Gerrard, Thierry Henry and Rio Ferdinand, with a hostile approach that makes it highly probable he also went for Arsenal’s stadium before setting his sights on Earls Court. Continue reading…

Football Books – Christmas 2012

Mark Perryman, co-founder of Philosophy Football, on a batch of football books for Christmas.

Twenty years on from the 1992 publication of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch it might be assumed that there wouldn’t be any subjects football-wise remaining to write a half-decent book about. It’s true there’s a lot of dross (personally I avoid almost all ghost-written player biographies like the plague) but there’s also enough fine writers – some new, some vintage – to still provide a literary football sparkle. Continue reading…

Lilyhammer

The Sopranos taught us many, many things, not least how long running television drama can have the multiple plotlines and complexities of a great novel while being as layered as the best of cinema. One of the smaller things it taught us was that Little Stevie can do comedy; a facial expression here, a hand gesture there and a sigh and indentation of the neck when imparting a few words of wisdom to Tone.

Just thinking about it is enough to think about getting the boxed sets out again. We always have the option, but as an alternative Lilyhammer gave us something new. Little Stevie reprises a mafia role, this time as Jimmy the Fixer, an unlikely grass against the new boss in his organisation who has already tried to take him out. His safe house and new life is not in suburbia like Henry Hill but instead in Lilliehammer, Norway, due to the character’s memories of watching the 1984 Winter Olympics. Continue reading…

The Tallest Man on Earth, Edinburgh (27 Oct 2012)

Marta-Emilia Bona’s Christmas came early as The Tallest Man on Earth came to Edinburgh. 

Kristian Matsson and I have been through a lot together.

Everyone holds dear an artist that provides an invaluable source of comfort on those days where all you want to do is curl up next to your radiator and feel pathetically sorry for yourself – ‘The Tallest Man on Earth’ is mine. My four-year love affair with the Swedish born folk singer reached its climax on Saturday night, during an enchanting performance at the HMV Picture House, Edinburgh. Continue reading…

Squeeze

Following a documentary on the band, Martin Cloake writes about Squeeze.

Take Me I’m Yours was the latest in what’s proving to be a well-crafted series of documentaries on early 1980s bands, and this one on Squeeze topped even the superb recent Undertones episode. I’ve been a huge fan for years, and I’ve never understood why the band are so often dismissed as pop/pub band candy floss.

I can remember standing with my schoolmates outside a church in Bounds Green, having been told to queue up to get homework during a teachers’ strike in the early 1980s. If you wanted to look cool at the time, you could reel off all the words to Cool for Cats, which was Squeeze’s current hit evoking a Sweeney-like world of coppers and villains in London. These were London boys singing about London things in accents we identified with and although there was something of a novelty appeal about the single – and about the way the tune was marketed – we also sensed there was something more to it. The lyrical dexterity that has attracted thoughtful kids to well-crafted pop music for ages was on display early on. Continue reading…

To Rome With Love

Earlier this year Robert Weide’s enjoyable documentary on Woody Allen showed a filmmaker who stores ideas on post-it notes he later develops; To Rome with Love, Allen’s latest piece, looks to be a combination of four separate post-it notes of varying strength intercut against a majestic backdrop of Rome.

Starting with a beautiful tracking shot of the Italian capital, the exterior shots of Rome are the only constant to four vignettes, that are more like extended comedy sketches. The cast is naturally strong and includes Allen himself, first appearing on screen , expressing himself like a hypochondriac John McEnroe to his wife, played by Judy Davis. Continue reading…

Wonderful World of Purchase Power

Last Wednesday, the German double winners, Borussia Dortmund, came to the reigning English League champions, Manchester City, and played them off their own park. Only an excellent individual display by goalkeeper Joe Hart kept City alive before a late debatable penalty salvaged a point that kept them off the bottom of a competitive Champions League group. Though a high quality group, with City as strong as they have been in their mixed history, the match wasn’t seen by a full house, with empty sky blue seats visible to the watching millions on TV around the world.

City are not alone. Arsenal also failed to sell out their first home Champions League group game of the season last week, and Tottenham Hotspur, who have tens of thousands on their season ticket holder waiting list, had thousands of empty seats when SS Lazio visited in the Europa League last month. Meanwhile, ahead the kick-off in Tottenham’s last league game against Aston Villa on Sunday, the PA announcer told White Hart Lane all “true Spurs fans” would buy the monthly magazine in addition to a matchday programme. There’s a recession on yet the attitude of most English clubs continues to treat its fans with contempt, as a cash cow that can continually be milked. Continue reading…

The Newsroom

Amidst the snappy dialogue, quick one-liners, sometimes silly set-pieces, human interest plot lines, a theme of  internal conspiracy and the occasional awful incidental music, The Newsroom is a welcome programme of substance.

It tackles issues head on, with real news stories, actual footage and, in a refreshing alternative from attempts to satire politics, hard facts and polemic. The early concerns it could be preachy are put to the side when events take over, with stories from the BP oil spill to the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords becoming the real drama.

By the time The Newsroom gets in its stride, the seventh episode, 5/1, has echoes of the greatness of The West Wing, with a superb combination of characters stranded on a grounded plane while the emotion of the breaking news story, the successful mission to find Bin Laden, takes over everywhere.

As the ten episodes progress there is less of the annoying incidental music that assumes its audience as stupid, just as the show the programme is centred on, News Night, matures to treat its views with more respect. And it is the discourse within The Newsroom, from why one courtroom trial is prime time TV ahead of not only a major global economic crisis, but cases that could be exactly the same if not for the way the media, with an agenda, want to present the case, that lets the viewer listen in on intelligent and weighty conversations. Continue reading…

Britain’s Outside Right

Mark Perryman reviews Daniel Trilling’s new book on the British far right.

Daniel Trilling has been for some time one of the few mainstream political journalists to take the British Far Right seriously. While at various moments anti-fascism has been a galvanising force for wide sections of the Left, the centre ground has too often been dominated by the wish that if only the BNP’s opponents would ignore them then the BNP and others like them would go away. Trilling’s achievement is to confront the dangers of this passivity and reveal the frightening consequences of leaving the Far Right to their own hateful and violent devices.

Bloody Nasty People is an ambitious mix of journalism, investigation and political analysis. The journalism mainly consists of spending time with a number of key figures on the Far Right. The culture of those drawn to Fascism remains largely a mystery to their opponents, and more particularly the milieu of casual support and voters that the BNP in particular at its height was able to mobilise. In an earlier period, the mid to late 1970s, Martin Walker produced the definitive account of the resistible rise of the National Front. Brilliantly written, Walker’s book The National Front read like a spinechilling thriller as he detailed how a neo nazi fringe moved into a position of becoming a mass movement focussed on anti-immigration and repatriation. Trilling seeks to equal the to-date unmatched achievement of Walker’s book and he comes admirably close. Continue reading…



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