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The US Crossword Championship [Mar. 31st, 2011|11:42 am]
So I see my last entry was back in November 2008. I don't know how you've managed.

And what, you may ask, has persuaded me to rejoin the blogging community... well I am moved to reminisce on last weekend's US Crossword Tournament which I (and a few other English folk) attended in Brooklyn. What a cracking weekend - and for me it was such a far cry from our British equivalents that preserving the experience in something other than my notoriously poor memory seems somehow appropriate.

So this is a one subject entry and it is long - if you aren't interested in crosswords, please don't start and then complain about its length :-)

Magoo and I journeyed over on the Friday morning and the hotel itself was a nice surprise. I was expecting something more akin to the accommodation we get at World Puzzle Championships - which in last year's case surpassed itself by including such luxuries as a bed and a light. Not so for the US xword championships - this was a proper hotel (replete with a foyer-full of nerds a plenty!).

We enjoyed a good dinner at the steakhouse next door where we were joined by chance by Ross, Magdalen and Henry B-W and shared thoughts on the forthcoming competitions. One major reason Peter B, Mark and I had decided to go across for the event was the 'World Championship' of cryptic crosswords competition planned for that evening. It would be a race over two puzzles - one English cryptic (by Don Manley I believe) and one American cryptic (by Rich Silvestri). This was the brainchild of Will Shortz, of whom I can't speak highly enough. He was extremely welcoming to all us Brits and the sheer competence with which the event is run and the whole scale of thing is a testament to how much 'profile' he has. The size has to be seen to be believed - the hall where the puzzles are solved is gigantic - 700 seats - and although it wasn't packed out for the cryptic event there was still a very good turnout. (I'd guess as many as we'd get for the Times finals anyway - which is not bad considering this was definitely a sideshow for the American contingent).

So the Friday evening started with us enjoying the 'magic' of David Kwong, himself a class act. I suspect this was the easiest and hardest audience he has had for his main trick - which consists of him constructing a New York Times grid on stage there and then. Except that this is no ordinary grid, as those who've seen what he can do on Youtube will know (go look it up!). Many of us could see what he was doing but it's no less impressive for that. Ross then gave a speech on the differences between UK and US cryptic crosswords, which was also very entertaining - surprisingly so for such a dry subject matter! (I think this is also available on Youtube).

And then came the cryptic competition itself. I moved myself away from Peter and Mark in the hall given how off-putting I suspected it would be when they put their hands up finished after no minutes at all.

In fact puzzle one went ok, so ok that I don't remember anything of it bar one clue. After 5 minutes I was faced with something like this for 2down:

Stars American city to cater, possibly (7)

I had L_C_R_A

and went for LACTREA. I put up my hand for 5mins 33 secs, a good time for me and I think second in the room. I looked over and Mark looked like he'd been finished for a while (he had, he was done in 4mins 3seconds!) but Peter was still finishing off so I knew I had an ok finish. Peter was done in just a shade over 6mins but in-between an American, Jeffrey Harris, had finished. This was despite what could be regarded as a whole series of UK-assisting answers/clues: ANDORRA, LIECHENSTEIN/ PM following Churchill in the garden (EDEN).

Puzzle 2 I found much harder. I'm not sure whether it was the style but I just didn't get traction. I also think my brain was starting to sleep as I managed to come up with several wrong names for an anagram clue (3,6) with the definition 'famous actor' or somesuch. No TIM ROSCUE wasn't right... Although the right answer eventually made its weary way to the forefront of my mind, the process by which it got there was rather tortuous. Anyway I finished this one in 11 minutes something - and was just outside the top 10 for that puzzle I believe. Mark, on the other hand, had breezed through in 4minutes 45secs with Jeffrey Harris again hot on his heels (just over 5 minutes). So Mark was, as Will announced, the official cryptic crossword World Champion with a combined time of under 9 minutes - a fairly extraordinary performance.

From a British perspective, I think we were all surprised by just how good the Americans were at puzzles which (I presume at least) they aren't solving every day. That Jeffrey Harris could be within touching distance of Mark is, quite simply, amazing. After all it's not like Mark is just solving the occasional cryptic - he is a machine built and bred specially for the purpose and, what's more, he practises A LOT. Also Jeffrey looks extremely young so he could well still be getting faster, which could make future events like this even more interesting.

Anyway the following day started very nicely with an American breakfast in the hotel and a browse through the bookstalls set up outside the main hall, all selling (or giving away) crosswords of every variety. I am a nerd for saying it but it was so cool :-). Mark and I found (and instantly purchased) a book called Banned Crosswords, which is hilarious for those of a puerile disposition... Next year we must remember to take some Magpie stuff along.

The competition itself then commenced. Nearly 700 people gather in the hall and there is real bonhomie between the competitors. I know Mark and I got talking to those around us and were made to feel very welcome. In fact the whole weekend was great from this perspective: people we'd never met coming over and wishing us a safe journey home on the Sunday; chatting to people in the lifts - I'm not sure whether it just our English conservatism but it is really nice when people are actually friendly and happy to initiate conversations just to see how things are going.

Will was also kind enough to introduce us again - this was more daunting this time as there were a lot more people and I suspected that our results were really not going to be impressive in the main event. Will is a brilliant compere, sharing jokes with the audience and reading from amusing letters he had received over the past year. Again the contrast with British version of the event could hardly be greater.

Puzzle 1 is supposed to be gentle and it was. With one exception. I was faced (as I would be again countless times over the coming puzzles) by a crossing which for Americans is a gimme. The clues:

Aerobic exercise popularized by Billy Blanks (5) was one across, the third letter of which was the first letter for:

Ice cream brand (4)

I had TA_BO for one across and _DYS for 3 down.

I have heard of TAE BO but never had to spell it and went for an I on the basis of TAI CHI (rather than E as in TAE KWON DO). EDYS ice cream is very famous in America I am told. I don't know about that but I am pretty sure it is not very famous in Kent.

Making one mistake (so two incorrect answers given the 100% checking) in any puzzle is a big problem - you lose A LOT of bonus so this wasn't a good start.

Puzzle 2 is apparently one of the harder puzzles from the set and so it proved for me. (I think Mark 'finished' but had an error or two). The puzzle was called Counter Offer and it became clear that you needed to work out a recipe which appeared in several across answers through the grid. Many American solvers around me were delighted afterwards as they were very familiar with the BROOKLYN EGG CREAM and the two ladies on my left were even able to discuss the nuances of the recipe. I had NEVER heard of it and this proved an unsurpassable obstacle. The puzzle is a good example of why it can be so hard for anyone without deep American cultural knowledge. Here are some examples I struggled with:

First name in Chicago politics (4) RAHM
Sch. with the fight song Anchors Away (4) USNA (I think!)
Singer Lovich (4) LENE
Landing site near City Field: Abbr (3) LGA (This happens quite a lot in these puzzles. ie we've all heard of LA GUARDIA and if the clue was New York City Airport it would be doable for those of us across the pond. But the reference to City Field will, for most Brits, just mean that this clue is a reference to some airport somewhere in America/Mexico/Canada - so we just move on.)
Like Washington, Adams or Madison: Abbr (4) EPIS (They were all Episcopalians apparently... I would have preferred a clue like 'Short letter').
Location of only WWII battle fought on US soil (4) ATTU
Photographer Adams (5) ANSEL
Baseball brothers (5) ALOUS
Gangster Bugsy (6) SIEGEL (yes, my first answer in was MALONE)
Baseball scoreboard letters (3) RHE

That said, there are also wonderful puns:

Get ready in a hurry? (4) NUKE
It might have one or more sides (6) ENTREE
One way to get to the top (4) TBAR

The next puzzle was by Merl Reagle - who even Brits have heard of! And it didn't disappoint. It was called Hooked on Homophonics and contained some gems:

Constantly yelling fan... after the game ( 18) THE HOARSE WHISPERER
Words after 'here' and 'there' in a song (4) AMOO (LOL!)
It may carry a tune (4) IPOD

Lots of culture which I struggled with:

- James Garfield's middle name (5) ABRAM
- Jack's girl in a 1982 #1 hit (5) DIANE
- Ole Miss rival (3) LSU
- Big name in gift chocolate (6) BRACHS

And those that I still don't get:

Kate's sneaky brother? PETE MOSS

Puzzle 4 was fine from memory. It was called A UN Assembly and included puns like POWER LAUNCH and RABBIT HAUNTING. I did have trouble with

Students taking Torts or Contracts, say (5) ONELS (ONE L's - some weird Americanism!)

which I got from the checking but was very dubious about. Plus not having heard of OSCAR DE LA RENTA wasn't helpful but I was bailed out by the apostrophe in

Androphobics' fear (3) MEN (not MAN and RANTA).

Puzzle 5 is (and was) 'the bastard'. I don't recall ever having sat in front of a crossword for so long for so little. It was called Crossover Hits and the culprit responsible for this monstrosity was Mike Shenk.

There were two ways to approach this puzzle:

1) Be au fait with 1967 hits by The Turtles or 1933 hits for Ted Lewis and write in the answers;
2) Have just enough American culture to get clues like:

NHL Coach Vigneault (5)
Cal Neva resort setting (5)
Nascar driver Hamlin (5)

I failed on both counts. But so did many others. All credit to Ross who got a substantial portion of this puzzle done and scored really well. Certainly it gives me a new crossword related ambition ie finish a Puzzle 5 in one of these competitions. I suspect the amount of practice necessary will be beyond me but I'm planning to give it a go.

I should mention that some of the pun clues were just outstanding in this puzzle:

Places to take notes (4) ATMS
Abrupt removal from the board (7) WIPEOUT
Sources of some pressure (5) PEERS
Union acquisition (5) INLAW (apparently some people put SOUTH).
Either end of America (5) SCHWA

And then there were clues that were brutal

Unlikely to offend (6) RATEDG - sorry I just don't see that ending as a possibility...
Pan companion (5) SATYR (I had WENDY for ages, which didn't help)

The best American solvers are finishing puzzles like this in 6/7/8 minutes, which is astounding. I'm also not sure it is fair to put the difference in speed down to culture. It wouldn't be impossible to come up with a culturally neutral puzzle of this difficulty and I suspect, even for the likes of Mark, the Brits would struggle to compete. Certainly it's something I'd love to see one day. In Dan Feyer the US has I suspect found a 'once in a generation' solver and, in Mark, so has the UK. Finding some way to compare the two would be fascinating.

Puzzle 6 was a larger puzzle but not meant to be as tough. It was titled Future World and had a series of gems in it:

President of the future? (12) RONALD RAYGUN (LOL)
Oscar winning actor of the future (12) ROBOT REDFORD

and traps for fools like me:

Dieter's possession (5) I put MEINE reasoning that Dieter was German. The answer was the more prosaic SCALE, doh.

I struggled to get into the middle of the grid, particularly with the mistake above. I was unaware that macaroni is shaped like an ELBOW, that ABIE was the title role in a 1922 play, that ELMAN Mischa is a violinist and that SONOMA is a wine region in California.

This concluded the crossword competition for day 1. In the lead was... no, not me... but Dan Feyer. My (probably inadequate) understanding of the scoring suggests that he didn't lose a single puzzle that day (he may have finished later in an individual minute but always within the same minute of his competition) and he seems to have beaten the room on more than one puzzle too. In other words, pretty dominant. I was really pleased to see Tyler up there too. I didn't get a chance to say hello to him (and frankly felt a little in awe) but the guy is a Snyder-esque sort of genius and I wanted to see him in the finals.

That night we went to a get-together organised by Ross and Magdalen in their suite(!). It was quite a gathering: Will was there, as was Brendan Emmett Quigley, Jon Delfin and I think Amy Reynaldo too. Jon was a star as he'd printed out that days UK Times puzzles for us, just in case we were missing home :-).

Mark and I went back to the steakhouse for dinner which meant that we missed the start of the evening's puzzle entertainment. In hindsight this was a big mistake because it was AWESOME. It consisted of having to solve lots and lots of little puzzles to build up a complete answer to one big one. The individual puzzles were hugely varied - there were things like cryptic crosswords, smell tests (yup you read that right), word searches, and logic problems. Having arrived late we managed to join with another latecomer (Steve from Kentucky) to form a team of three and get going. We actually did pretty well I think because we managed to finish (just) in the time given. If we'd started half an hour earlier and had an extra person we might have been competitive. Mark showed off an uncanny knowledge for the flags of the world, Steve provided access to all the American culture we would have otherwise died on and I did a very good job of not doing the things I decided I would be bad at (like smelling anything). This was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend for me - I'm not sure whether it happens every year but, as Steve would say, I sure hope so.

Sunday consisted of one final puzzle in the general competition - which I died on horribly. It contained a neat gimmick whereby some across answers contained a few cirled squares scattered along their length - the letters in the circled squares then provided the clue for the answer. So, for example, the letters TITAN were circled in the answer SAtELLitEOFSaTURn. This puzzle had the most US-crossword-ese IMO. We were sitting just along from Trip Payne and, to use a cliche, I had hardly had time to read the clues when his hand went up. Seriously seriously impressive.

And so we came to the most surreal part of the weekend - the talent show. And there were those that genuinely seemed to have some talent and those that... well, didn't. But who cares, no one seemed to and we all applauded all! There is something rather sweet about it looking back - a sort of 'yes, we know we are all nerds this weekend'-camaraderie. In dark moments I consider how the English equivalent would go... I'm not sure it would work so well...: Some ancient professor standing up to give a lecture on Danish grammar or some disturbed misfit exhibiting the sebum collected from his hair after different periods of unwashing... man, it would be great.

The finals can be seen I'm sure on YouTube. I decided to try to solve the A Clues (the hardest) set while the C and B finals were happening. This required discipline as I couldn't look up for 30 minutes, which is about what it took me. The A clues are brutal and often brilliant. Eg

Off-hand remark (5) IPASS
Charge when a job is done? (5) GUNIT
Changed locks (4) WIGS

Even clues where you think 'Aha a way in' prove not to be:

1964 Lennon/McCartney song (8) turned out to be IM A LOSER, which is hardly one of their better known tunes...

The lack of a gimmick meant it was just about doable for me. For Dan Feyer/Tyler Hinman/Anne Erdmann though this puzzle and these clues were a mere bagatelle. Dan just started and then didn't stop... steadily filling in answers with seemingly little pause for thought. 6 or so minutes later he'd done. Tyler is also ludicrously quick just the occasional pause meant he took 8/9 mins. Anne took slightly longer but still so impressive. I remember noting that she seemed to start with

SW Colorado's _ Mountain (3) (UTE apparently... no, I didn't know that either).

At the end they are applauded to the rafters and when Dan is formally declared champion he is given a standing ovation. One of the things that will stay with me is Mark getting to his feet and applauding as hard as anyone there. For me it was one of the most interesting moments of the whole weekend because I can't really imagine Mark doing the same for any sort of performance he could witness in a UK competition - frankly almost nothing would impress him. But here in this 'same but different' discipline, a game with which he is familiar, it was possible for Dan Feyer to actually wow someone who many would argue is the finest solver of cryptic crosswords ever. In this strange, somewhat geeky world, there was a real poignancy to it.
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Strange times [Nov. 28th, 2008|09:39 am]
I've been too busy to write much recently but I feel the following needs reporting so that, in the event of a premature demise, a prime suspect is identifiable.

Last night I received what is, without doubt, the strangest letter + enclosures of all time. Bearing in mind that I co-edit a crossword magazine and get my fair share of extraordinary correspondence, this is no mean feat. I will not name the sender but suffice to say he is a very good and fast crossword solver who is getting on in years; he has is never seen without his tesco bag. He is also, apparently, heavily into the dance music scene in Brighton. I jest not.

Said letter contained the following:

a) an envelope addressed to "Simple Simon Pieman" on the back of which was a handwritten reference to Euphoria, Return to Ibiza (remixes) - out on Friday apparently at a price of £9.99 (£19.99 in Canary Wharf).

b) Inside was a second yellowed envelope - containing a letter from The Times dated 19 November 1993 informing the sender of a win in the Listener crossword No. 3225.

c) As well as a third yellowed envelope from 10 September 1986 containing a letter of congratulations re Listener 2683

d) A photocopy of the solution to Listener 2677 won by, inter alia, Mr E.B. Uvarv of Suffolk. There is a handwritten annotation stating "Notice the cunningly encrypted name".

e) A piece of paper on which is written the following

"There was an old man from Torquay
Who had Raspberry Triple for Tea
He opened his lips
Got a Mouthful of pips
and three himself into the sea".

f) An original cutting from The Times of 14 December 1990 in which the demise of the Listener magazine is reported.

g) A printout off the internet of a webpage containing a photograph of Birnbeck Pier, Weston-Super-Mare.

h) A photocopy of a filled-in Listener crossword 2303 (An hour to play by Ploutos) from 18 July 1974. This copy also has an inset copy of the solution to 2301 at which the sender was apparently a winner.

i) A photocopy of the answers from some quiz. Together with a second page of answers, some of which are handwritten. These are too weird to report in full.

j) A yellowed piece of paper on which the sender has written out the entire poem The Rolling English Road by GK Chesterton and Ted Hughes's Hear It Again.

k) A letter to me asking me to readmit him to the Magpie (I presume) and alerting me to the fact that two of his own compilations will be arriving soon. It contains an explanation of the sender's pseudonym (which is based off his full name, one of the names of which is Thomas) and the following line:

"We won't mention the Thomas unless she demands to see my 7" collection of etchings etc".

Other than concluding that the sender is definitely on drugs (possible), what is going on?

Chinese Democracy is disappointing so far. The only song I really liked at first listen was Catcher in the Rye and that's because the guitar-playing on it sounded the most like Slash.

Haven't done a Listener-style crossword in weeks! Have a few ideas for new puzzles though, which is refreshing. Just need some time to turn them into something :-(
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LJ Cut - can I remember how to do it? [Nov. 4th, 2008|12:09 pm]
WPC report + Listener news

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(no subject) [Oct. 18th, 2008|12:10 am]
Last night I watched Once on DVD - what a great film. I knew about Glen Hansard from The Frames (he was also the young guitarist in The Commitments) and the film is a joy for anyone who likes proper music.

At the weekend I had the pleasure of preparing Magoo for his triumph in the Times Crossword Championship - in fact, it is a virtual certainty that he would not have won but for me. Had I not been at his house I wouldn't have drunk most of his champagne, thereby leaving him free to sip Ribena and keep his faculties intact for the next day's exertions.

The competition itself was fun. I plodded through the three puzzles in the second semi-final in about 29mins - averaging under 10mins a puzzle is not that bad for me. Still it wasn't quick enough - Magoo taking about 15minutes (which is about right as he is normally about twice as fast as me on the Times). I can take that though as I suspect Magoo is, in terms of pure speed, the fastest solver of the Times cryptic ever. It would have been fascinating to see him duel with John Sykes...

The final may not have the theatre of the US crossword championships (no white boards at the front - which is an innovation they should definitely consider at some point) but it is still pretty tense. At the point Mark raised his hand (after 18 minutes) I had solved almost all of the second puzzle, about 2/3rds of the third puzzle and had 2 answers in the first. It was pretty impressive. I think Tim Smith was second about 4 minutes later - still an awesome time on those three puzzles.

So well done Magoo. And remember, you owe me for keeping the Krug to myself ;-)
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Short update [Sep. 17th, 2008|09:53 am]
So life moves on...

My holiday in Tanzania was very cool - lots of animals including, at last, a leopard. Zanzibar was also nice but I'm not sure I'd recommend it over some of the other beach paradises (it is not a patch on the Maldives).

Last weekend was the Times Sudoku Championship. A new format this time (which was better): basically 4 Fiendish puzzles in round 1, then another 4 in round 2 and the 8 best aggregate positions across the two rounds qualify for the grand final (another 4 puzzles).

What the organisers got right was the elimination of monstrous Super-Fiendish puzzles which reward guessing. Although I did use a couple of guesses in the competition it was nothing like as bad as last year when I guessed every puzzle.

I bumped into Tom and George beforehand and it was great to catch up with them again. Tom has clearly been practising, George hadn't due to starting work - ha, welcome to the real world!!

The first session was interesting in two main respects: I was about 1/3rd of the way through my third puzzle when a girl next to me raised her hand - and she didn't want to go to the toilet. My slow brain realised that she must be Nina Pell, which indeed was so. 18mins for those four puzzles was very very quick. Perhaps not Thomas-esque but world class. The next surprise was that when I raised my hand (about 8 mins or so later), Tom C was still working. I looked round and Magoo had finished but not that many others seemed to have stopped work. And about 10 minutes later Tom was still working - I could see him frantically rubbish things out and, at one point, the tell tale movements of a man drawing a new grid could be discerned.

Tom did raise his hand in the end but it goes to show that sudoku-solving can catch anyone - an early mistake you don't catch and you can lose your rhythm, then your confidence and then you are lost.

I'd finished 9th it turned out, Magoo had an error - which he was furious about. George was second, behind Nina.

The next round of puzzles felt much harder. I struggled on at least two of them and needed two bifurcations (aka guesses) on one of them. Tom blitzed through beating the room by minutes. Nina was also very quick. I was far too slow. Although I finished them all, my finishing position (around 25th out of the 100 in the room) was not quite high enough to get me into the top 8. B*llocks.

George was second again (from memory). I didn't recognise any of the other names in the top 8 but it was good to see 2 girls in there - something that wasn't the case in the world championships, where the top places were pretty male-dominated.

Again the organisation had improved so a number of us were able to do the Final puzzles along with the actual finalists. Tom C, who must have been pretty peed off, blitzed them again - beating Nina, the eventual winner, by 11 minutes! Tom believes he has got very good at spotting hidden triples, which were apparently important for the puzzles in question. I am obviously not very good at spotting these (indeed I don't think the Snyder method is particularly helpful in this regard). Nina's article suggests that she adopts a "write every possibility in each square" approach - which means she must be lightning in terms of speed. This is what I used to do and finding the logic can take a lot longer for some puzzles - although it is fair to say that the puzzles that you can't actually solve using this method are rare (certainly in a newspaper context).

George was unlucky and finished fourth - which was still very good but I think he was disappointed - he definitely could have won and I'm sure he will do one day (providing he doesn't let work get in the way!!).

Right, back to the world of banking falling apart around me.
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Neglect [Aug. 13th, 2008|09:18 am]
OK, so I've been incredibly lax about updating this recently. So here is a brief rundown:

1. Am now officially the Godfather. (Well the definite article may not be valid but it definitely sounds better...)

2. The K Club has the three best finishing holes I've ever played. However 380Euro for one round of golf is crazy (The round does not come with a gold bar.)

3. Good few days in Portugal was also not cheap - the Euro is killing us. Had an enjoyable game of golf with a jewelry designer known as "Hubert" (www.hubertgem.com). He was a pretty good golfer too and told a nice story about just missing out on competing in the US Amateur a few years back (where he played with a guy called Adam Scott...). Which reminds me, Paddy Harrington - what has happened to you?!

4. Gareth Barry. I go on record now and say that I want to see him sign for Liverpool. Even if it means that Alonso goes. The Kop doesn't agree but he is one of the best left footed players in the league; has a proven record in the EPL; he is rated by Benitez and I rate Benitez; and he rarely misses from the penalty spot - unlike everyone else currently taking pens for us.

5. Love Jason's idea of a Nikoli team league. Could we then have fantasy Nikoli? How much would Motris be worth vs Hideaki Jo?

6. My Apple Mac. I love it. What I don't love is Electronic Arts - whose "helpline" seems designed to induce rabid insanity. Despite them and my general technological ineptitude I can now run Windows on my Mac both through Parallels and Bootcamp. And, most importantly, Command and Conquer Tiberium Wars runs on the latter. Welcome back, commander ;-)
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More Layla [Jul. 16th, 2008|01:14 pm]
Been reading more about the history of LAOAL (see previous post).

The funny thing about Clapton's back catalogue is that a lot of it IS flat. (Sorry Eric). Many of his live performances are sterile - they feel like he is going through the motions - and I can understand it when he says he is embarrassed to listen to some of his work. Even the great affinity he feels with Robert Johnson didn't propel him to hit the heights: his recent tribute album for instance is just ordinary; the guitar playing mediocre and safe.

His early career with the Bluesbreakers was good, Cream was better, and then came Derek and the Dominoes - at a time when his personal life was something of a mess.

This comment about Clapton's performances on LAOAL from Dave Marsh, in The Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll struck a chord:

"there are few moments in the repertoire of recorded rock where a singer or writer has reached so deeply into himself such that the effect of hearing them is akin to witnessing a suicide... "

Not the music is "blue", it is just emotional and the result is that Clapton's voice and guitar playing are simply out of this world.
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Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs [Jul. 14th, 2008|04:31 pm]
is still the best album of all time. I revisited it at the weekend and it's still breathtaking. It takes some gumption to write an album about being in love with your best mate's wife, especially if it's true. Clapton has never been better, inspired as he was by a cocktail of heroin and cocaine, a guitarist who could genuinely push him in Duane Allman and the then unrequited love of Patty Boyd.

It has many many beautiful songs but most people who haven't listened to all of it will know Layla. And those who know Layla probably know the "extended version" with the piano solo overlaid by Duane Allman's slide guitar.

But what most people don't know is that the man who contributed this sublime ending to one of the greatest songs of all time... murdered his mother with a hammer just over a decade later.
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It's good to be back... [Jul. 4th, 2008|09:31 am]
Watched a film called The Football Factory last night - it's about soccer hooligans. Superb film and, I'm reasonably reliably informed, true to life. Certainly a lot more realistic that the "hooligan" film Green Street - featuring the menacing thug aka Frodo the Hobbit.

A friend of mine sent me this: skip to the last five minutes where he "explains" his method for squaring 5-digit numbers - amazing.


I need a new book to read, recommendations please...

There is an advert on UK TV at the moment which uses the music from Tears For Fears' Mad World as the backdrop - a blast from the past but what a good song.

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere
And their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow
And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm dying
Are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you
'Cos I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It's a very, very
Mad World
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Hooray [Jul. 3rd, 2008|01:59 pm]
Somehow work's filtering system has stopped recognising Livejournal as naughty...

Quick update:

1. Went to The Magic Flute last night in Holland Park. Actually quite enjoyed it, though I think Mozart would have been better off editing it slightly. The version we saw was 3 hours long, whereas about 40 minutes would have worked better.

2. My new Apple computer arrived. It is very smart. So far I've not tried to upload anything useful to it (like Chambers CD Rom) but my faith in Parallels is, at this point, absolute. And completely unfounded.

3. Martin O'Neill. Get over it.

4. Spurs. Keane wants to come to us. Let him go. (I like Keane as a player, though I worry he is just a slight upgrade on Craig Bellamy - which makes him expensive at the mooted £20m).

5. Although I'll probably regret writing this, I'm looking forward to watching Deco play in the EPL next season - class player.

6. My golf is toilet. Getting knocked out of every competition in sight and cannot hit my proverbial hat. No idea what is wrong, other than the ball doesn't come out of the middle of the club and goes in a random direction with random spin - quality.
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