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World Cup Whims


Once again, I’m putting my “reputation” as a “sports journalist” on the line and making a few predictions for the upcoming Football World Cup.

To win:

Spain. I don’t understand why so many people are writing off the Spanish. Their second XI would beat the majority of the teams at the World Cup, and unlike Brazil & Argentina there are no weaknesses in their team. People are making a lot out of the South American weather. Whilst Spain‘s climate doesn’t match Brazil‘s in terms of humidity, they will be accustomed to playing in uncomfortable temperatures so I don’t think they’ll be disadvantaged in that regard.

To excite:

Argentina. Definitely the team with the greatest wealth of attacking talent. In Messi, Aguero, Higuaín and di María, it’s pretty clear that Argentina‘s mentality will be an attacking one. Drawn in a group with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria, one can almost guarantee that there will be goals galore. After that, a rollercoaster ride to the semi-finals, culminating in defeat to Spain, seems the most likely eventuality for the Argentines.

England’s prospects:

We’ll get out of the group with 5 points. I think we’ll scrape a no/low-scoring draw against Italy, followed up by victory against (the overrated) Uruguay and, needing just a point to qualify, secure a nervy draw against a Costa Rica side with nothing to play for but pride. After that, who knows? It seems likely that we’ll face Colombia in the last 16; if that proves to be the case, I’d fancy the South American side to knock us out. Which leads me nicely onto my next prediction…

The Dark Horse:

Colombia. Everyone is saying Belgium will be this year’s dark horse, but as fifth favourites with virtually every bookmaker they surely can’t be considered such. Should Colombia, at 40/1 to win the thing, reach the quarter finals then I think that could legitimately be considered a surprise success. With a straightforward group and the prospect of a last 16 game against England, back Colombia to make it to the last 8. I also think Russia might cause a few upsets, and may pip Belgium to first place in Group H. Oh, and watch out for the French. I like the look of their set-up.

The Flops:

Uruguay & Portugal. There’s a lot of hype surrounding this Uruguay team, and there’s no doubt that in Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani they have two of the world’s finest strikers. Look beyond the front line, though, and there’s really not much to write home about. Uruguay‘s back four are far from brilliant, Emmanuel Godín their only defender of international quality. Their midfield doesn’t look any better, relying on the distinctly average Walter Gargano and the ageing Diego Perez for their creative spark. The Uruguayans won’t make it out of the group, and won’t take points off either England or Italy.

Portugal will probably get out of their group, but I don’t think they’ll progress any further than the last 16 where they’ll most likely face Russia. Ronaldo will undoubtedly try and score at any opportunity, but realistically he has a poor shots/goals conversion record and his selfishness is likely to cost Portugal when they play against a Russian team who will be well-organised and extremely disciplined

Golden Boot: Lionel Messi

Golden Ball: Lionel Messi

Selfies – The Bigger Picture


With the ever-increasing influence and convenience of social media in modern society, exciting new crazes have been spreading across the nation over the past few years like wildfire. In case you’ve been living under a rock (in a cave, in the middle of the ocean, on Saturn) for the last year, the latest of these crazes has been dubbed the ‘selfie’. It’s a fantastic new idea which involves a creative individual taking a photo of themselves by ingeniously rotating their camera/smartphone (unless they’re fortunate enough to have a phone with a front-facing camera) 180 degrees and pulling a suitably amusing/happy/confused face for all their lucky viewers.

Except this idea is neither fantastic nor new. Don’t flatter yourselves; human beings have been taking pictures of themselves in this manner for decades. Let me say some words on the matter.

Firstly, I don’t understand why so many people suddenly think that their faces are worthy of the world’s attention, or essential viewing for their friends on a daily basis. Well, actually, I do. These people are fishing for compliments, seeking acceptance from a world that specialises in lies and disappointment. It’s a very weak place to lay your hope.

Secondly, I’m perplexed as to why we’ve decided that we need to appropriate a name to this reprehensible act. Maybe we’ve done it to try and somehow paper over the self-aggrandising nature of the ‘selfie’ by giving it a catchy name and integrating it into society via the steadfastness of the dictionary, or maybe we’re just far too lazy to say ‘self-portrait’ or ‘photo of myself’. Regardless, ‘selfie’ is something I’d expect to hear from the mouth of a 12 year-old girl, not a fully grown adult. 

Thirdly, it is incredibly annoying when a friend posts a picture of somewhere interesting but their face is filling up the vast majority of the photo. They might as well be in their bedroom, as far as I’m concerned.

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I think the ‘selfie’ is actually part of a bigger problem (I put the word in inverted commas because I refuse to acknowledge it as a worthy part of common parlance). 

Everyone wants to be idolised. There is a common trend in modern society of self-serving, self-loving and self-obsessing behaviour. This narcissism has crept into every facet of our culture, and is perhaps most notable in popular reality television shows where contestants are encouraged to ‘follow their dreams’ and are warned against ‘settling’ for an ‘ordinary’ job. It’s a message that stems from the notion that we are all the centre of everyone else’s universe, that we are all destined for fame and glory and that success is measured by popularity. The word ‘ordinary’ has become so taboo that Jessie J, Louis Walsh or *insert any other ‘follow your dreams’ celebrity* would probably kill me on the spot were I to describe someone as such.

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For the sake of the next generation, we need to change our attitude. Children are growing up thinking that they own the world and that it owes them something, which can come as no surprise when you consider the list of role models with which they’re presented. Female musicians who rely solely on sexual appeal, deceitful footballers, blasé politicians, comedians who overuse swear words and laugh at their own jokes (did someone say ‘Jack Whitehall’?), pseudo-liberal TV presenters and One Direction. Everyone wants to be looked at; the art of humility is indeed a lost one.

When it comes to ‘selfies’, I hope you can see the bigger picture. 

 

NB: I do believe the latest fundraising initiative involving self-portraits to be most worthwhile, but why not just donate £3 regardless?!

My Summer Playlist


The last few days have provided us with the finest weather of the year thus far, and although today’s forecast is promising the restoration of normality, my barbecue-filled weekend has inspired me to compile a vivacious playlist to chaperone me through the thoroughly soporific affair that is the British summer. I fully intend to ignore the inevitable shortcomings of the British weather system, and instead pretend that England lies slap-bang in the middle of the tropics. Here are five artists who will be helping me to sustain this illusion:

Ingrid Michaelson

Those who know me well will be rolling their eyes right now, but I don’t care. The effervescent, ukulele-wielding singer from Manhattan brings an arsenal of cheery, cheesy pop-folk to the party. Michaelson is best-known for playful love ballads You And I  and The Way I Am, but her lyrics contain depth that only becomes detectable after serious usage of the ‘repeat’ button. Her latest single, Blood Brothers, is a model example of how to combine serious commentary on society with fun and uplifting melodies. It’s music that allows, rather than forces, you to think. 

The perfect listening scenario: Invite a few friends over for a barbecue, sit them all down with plenty of meat and sneakily put Ingrid on in the background. The ideal soundtrack to a summer evening.

Don McLean

Don McLean’s American Pie was my favourite song as a child, and may still be today. I can’t quite put my finger on what makes McLean so unique, but his voice exudes the emotion of Johnny Cash whilst maintaining the gentleness of Celine Dion. His Greatest Hits album is the singer-songwriter’s Holy Grail, a masterpiece the likes of which very few will be able to transcend. McLean is the man who Jack Johnson is probably trying to emulate.

The perfect listening scenario: Country road, windows down, mixing your thoughts with Don’s [Hills of forest green where the mountains touch the sky, A dream come true, I’ll live there ’til I die]. My personal favourites for this are Castles In The Air, Wonderful Baby and Vincent.

Madison Violet

This dynamic folk duo from Canada are relatively unknown, especially in the UK, but I’m ever so glad that I stumbled upon them. Comprising of singer-songwriters Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac, they rely heavily on beautiful harmonies and lively melodies to compose memorable, catchy ditties. Come As You Are and The Good In Goodbye are the two songs for which they are most well-known, but their discography has plenty of depth and variety.

The perfect listening scenario: Best for an audience of one. You’re lying in a hammock in your garden, the sun is meandering its way through the sky, you’ve got a book in your hand and Madison Violet in your ear.

I’m From Barcelona

I’m From Barcelona are the happiest group of people you could hope to meet. All 29 band members originate from Sweden and contribute to the band’s wonderful cacophony through an outrageous number of instruments. It’s impossible to place their sound in a specific genre, so I’m just going to refer to their music as “happy”. The joy that they take in writing, playing and singing is evident for all to see in the music video for their marquee song We’re From Barcelona. There is no hidden message with IFB, no ulterior agenda. They exist purely for the purpose of making people smile.

The perfect listening scenario: Get a large group of people together and crank up the volume. You’ll soon all be singing along to classics such as Treehouse, Collection of Stamps and Jenny.

Gungor

Michael Gungor’s “Musical Collective”, Gungor are a mellow Christian folk band from Colorado, US. Gungor’s music is varied, both in terms of style and quality, so I’d find it hard to recommend a full album. However, some of their songs are unbelievably good. Everything that Gungor produce is genuine, sincere and intelligent. A Christian band capable of writing lyrics devoid of cliché is a rare thing indeed. It is music from the Bible that refreshes the soul.

The perfect listening scenario: There really isn’t one, but stick Gungor’s Beautiful Things and God Is Not A White Man in your summer playlist for guaranteed smiles.

Have a great summer!

Blessings.

Poetry Emotion


I’ve recently tried dabbling in a bit of poetry. Like many other things in life, the writing of poems is something that I love to do but hate to study. Some of my worst memories from school I owe to many hours of studying poetry anthologies, and some of my best involve authoring my own limericks, sonnets and ballads [the content of which would generally be somewhat inappropriate for the classroom environment].

Writing poems has always been easy for me. Maybe that’s why I’m so uninterested in the efforts of other people – I read their poetry and conclude that I could have probably written something of a similar standard. Clearly I am being delusional if this is the cause of my disinterest; I think my year 5 teacher [you can find his blog here] will assure you that my poem about “missing the bowl when I go to the loo” was hardly Poet Laureate material. Yet it achieved its aim, it made my class laugh, and that’s exactly what I want my writing to do – reach an audience and cause them to react in a certain way.

Admittedly my poetry has become slightly more contemplative since that fateful year 5 English class. I look around me for inspiration; to the people in my life, to the people in their lives, to societal shortcomings, to creation, to the creator, to anything that makes people stop and think.

Anyway, it’s late and I can’t even remember why I started writing this post. You can find some of my poems under the “My Poetry” tab on the left hand side of my blog.


Thought I’d share with you this excellent comment on the way we perceive death:

Broken Chariots

Thanatophobia. The word may be unfamiliar but the older you get the more familiar you will become with its meaning. Thanatophobia is the fear of death or more specifically being dead or dying; and according to those ‘Top Ten’ surveys that frequent the internet, it remains unchallenged as the number one fear most common to mankind.

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