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The Anaheim Angels unexpectedly came through to win the 2002 World Series, after a thrilling series with the San Francisco Giants. While I'm not an Angels fan (as anyone who read my review of the Atlanta Braves will know) I know a quite a few, so I was quite pleased for them. Without further ado, here are the details of the team itself. THE PITCHERS The Angels are a strong pitching team. Although he lost twice in the World Series Jarrod Washburn is a fierce competitor who fears no-one (perhaps part of his problem, given the massive Home Run he gave up to Barry Bonds in Game 1). Veteran Kevin Appier did well during the season but was shaky through the play-offs. However Ramon Ortiz (known as "Little Pedro" before it became known that he wasn't actually that much younger than Pedro Martinez) was successful in the play-offs, as was rookie starter John Lackey. Lackey won the clinching game of the World Series, and looks to have a fantastic future ahead of him. While their starting pitching is good, their relief corps is superb. Prior to the clinching game of the World Series it was widely reported that all the Angels needed out of Lackey was five innings, as they could then get a further two from Brandon Donnelly, one from young phenom Francisco Rodriguez and then the final inning from ace closer Troy Percival. That was exactly what happened, they were as dependable as you could wish for if you were an Angels fan. THE HITTERS Working around the positions, the Angels have Bengie Molina as their catcher. He is more known for his catching ability more than his hitting ability, but he did come up big in game seven of the World Series, hitting two doubles, one of which led to the tying run scoring in the second inning. At first base is Scott Spiezio. He is not your stereotypical first basemen, as he is not that powerful. However he defends his position well, and was very consistent over the cour
se of the 2002 season. His biggest moment of the season had to be his three-run home run in game six which started the Angels comeback from a five-run deficit. At second base normally is Adam Kennedy. He came over to the Angels a few years ago in the trade which took star Jim Edmonds to St. Louis. It didn't seem like a particularly fair trade, until Kennedy stepped up and hit three home runs in the win over Minnesota that sent Anaheim. He is also a solid defensive second baseman. The Anaheim shortstop is David Eckstein. A feisty little player, you can't help but admire him. He is a team player, doing whatever it takes to get on base (including taking a considerable number of blows to his slight frame). He is wholly committed, and also comes over as being immensely popular on the team itself. In case you're interested his appearance reminds me slightly of Gareth from "The Office", but that's probably just me. The third baseman is Troy Glaus. Sometimes inconsistent when fielding, but always dangerous with the bat. He hit three home runs in the course of the World Series, and hit what turned out to be the winning double in game six. He was voted as the Most Valuable Player of the World Series, and as he is only in his mid-20s he has a very bright future in front of him. The outfield lineup starts in right field with Anaheim veteran Tim Salmon. Plagued by injuries, but always a consistent hitter and has been with the Angels for his whole career. In centre field is Darin Erstad, a sometimes inconsistent hitter but one who is a 110%-type player who can produce some dazzling catches. In left field is Garret Anderson, a stellar player for a number of years who will now be remembered for the World Series winning hit in game seven, a double which scored three runners. MANAGEMENT Manager Mike Scioscia knows about winning. He won two World Series as a catcher with the nearby Los Angeles Dodgers, and
at the same time would have learnt a great deal from legendary Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda. He also brought over old team-mates Mickey Hatcher and Alfredo Griffin as coaches, and the impact in Anaheim has clearly worked. Pitching coach Bud Black also gets a lot of credit for his work, and has been linked with managerial vacancies that have become available this winter. Credit must also go to General Manager Bill Stoneman, who compiled the roster. The Angels are solid in all areas, and have no immediate contract concerns. It should also be noted that in 2001 the Angels finished more than 40 games out of first place in their division. Some General Managers might have fired their Manager, but Stoneman stuck with Scioscia. The Angels have often been criticised by some writers for playing "small ball", getting hits, sacrifices and situational hitting where patience and power is now the name of the game. However in the play-offs the Angels did produce power at crucial moments. Furthermore Scioscia does know when to be aggressive, most notably in one game in Seattle early in the year where he brought big bats off the bench early to bury the game when the opportunity arose. Scioscia seems to be very smart, and I certainly rate him as a manager. So there are the Anaheim Angels for you. Perhaps not the greatest individuals, but certainly a team in the truest sense of the word. And in a sport where money counts so much, it was nice to see team spirit overcome those "teams" who flash the big bucks.
In the autumn on 1997 I was preparing to go online outside of University for the first time. I was flicking through Internet magazines and happened to come across a provider called Claranet. Their advertisement offered a free CD, and so I chose to give them a call, thus beginning a relationship that still exists today. Initially Claranet was quite expensive for me. As most Internet Service Providers (or ISPs as they are more frequently known) were years ago no calls were included with your monthly fee, and so the phone bill was hit pretty hard. There were also occasional frustrations of being cut off every so often in the middle of surfing. It was not perfect by any means. Before long though some ISPs were beginning to offer free calls. Some friends suggested that I should change too, but as it was still reasonably early in the day I decided to hold fast. As well as anything else connections were getting better, speeds seemed to be improving, and I was also enjoying the benefits of unlimited e-mail addresses, 50Mb of web space and useful tutorial pages and tools like page counters. Eventually Claranet began to offer free calls at weekends. Great, a step in the right direction! Meanwhile some providers that were offering free calls or no monthly fee were backtracking, or in some cases (e.g. Altavista) disappearing altogether. I was starting to appreciate being with an ISP that was not "here today, gone tomorrow" and carefully considered their steps forward. I am currently a subscriber to Claranet Freetime Unlimited. This allows me to be online without incurring any call charges between 6pm and 2am on weekdays, and all day on weekends. I could choose a higher package, but while I am either sleeping or working between 2am and 6pm what is the point in spending more money needlessly? Free time on occasional days off work would be nice, but a change that would certainly benefit me would be if this package would allow you to ha
ve Bank Holidays included as free days. At the moment Bank Holidays (including Christmas and New Year?s Day) are treated like normal weekdays, which is a bit awkward in my opinion. At the time of writing this costs me £9.99 a month, plus any call charges for time spent online outside of my free time. You must also have a BT phone line to have this package. Claranet are still in the process of fully implementing their Claranet Freetime Anytime package. This costs you £14.99 a month and does allow you to access the internet without a charge at any time. However you ought to be aware of a few things. Firstly it is not available to everyone in the UK at the time of writing. Secondly you are not meant to be online the whole time with this package, and if you are online for more than 120 hours a month you will be asked to upgrade to Claranet Freetime Anytime Business, which will cost you £24.99 a month (this information is only shown in the Claranet Freetime Anytime FAQ page on the Claranet website). Again until I am consistently at home during normal working hours I do not think I will be changing packages. There are other useful things for Claranet users online. The members page allows you to change your payment details, check your outstanding balance, see how long you have been online and lots of other useful things. Another useful thing is the ability to check your e-mail online. Remember a review I wrote about a site called Twigger, which allowed you to check your e-mail from the internet? Well I do not use Twigger any more, as instead I can use Claranet?s Post Office (http://post-office.clara.net) instead. Simple and easy to use, and a great way to get rid of junk mail without having to download it first. Be warned though, it is not perfect, especially with HTML e-mails which frequently appear to be blank. Connection speeds seem to be very good (although I cannot give technical specifications on this, but the speeds rarely seem to frustrat
e me), and their customer services staff are both polite and in the majority of instances very helpful. I have not needed to speak to them in regard to many things, but when I have they have been first class. You may also want to consider that a call to Claranet does not require the use of a premium rate number, as some other ISPs do require. I do have one other tiny gripe. Over the past year or so I have started to put together web pages with PHP. Putting web pages together with PHP is a doddle, much easier than just using HTML by itself, and I (along with countless others, no doubt) would benefit from being able to put PHP pages on our sites. Unfortunately Claranet does not allow this, despite the fact that you can put PHP on your servers for no cost whatsoever. The world is not perfect, and unfortunately in this instance Claranet is no exception. However for the most part Claranet is an excellent ISP. I am very happy to have them as my ISP, and given their past history I can see that being the state of affairs for the considerable future as well. When you have a company you can rely on at an affordable price why even think about changing?
I was browsing around Dooyoo the other day and discovered to my pleasure that you could now write reviews about individual Baseball teams. And what better place to start than my favourite team, the Atlanta Braves? The Braves have not always been the Atlanta Braves. They began life in 1876 as the Boston Red Stockings (they became the Braves in 1912), before moving in 1953 to become the Milwaukee Braves. Some good years followed, especially in the mid 1950s. The team boasted greats like Warren Spahn and Hank Aaron, and won a World Series in 1957. However the team would uproot again, moving to Atlanta in 1966. Many lean years would follow though, only broken up by divisional titles in 1969 and 1982. Despite being owned by media mogul Ted Turner the Braves were not a contending franchise. However in 1990 changes began to take place which would turn the Braves into a powerhouse. General Manager Bobby Cox resumed charge of the team as Manager, while ace General Manager John Schuerholz left the Kansas City Royals and took the post Cox had vacated. As an aside at about the same time the Braves had the first pick of the 1990 draft, and upon being told that top prospect Todd Van Poppel would not sign for them instead turned their attention to a young Floridian shortshop called Chipper Jones. Entering the 1991 season everything came together. Veteran Terry Pendleton joined as a free agent, pitcher Tom Glavine had a superb season, and 1990 Rookie of the Year David Justice continued his solid form. On the last day of the season the Braves snatched the National League West title from the Los Angeles Dodgers. I had started looking out for Braves scores in the middle of that year, once I had heard that two-sport star Deion Sanders was playing for them. However when my family took a holiday to Florida that autumn it was pitcher Steve Avery who caught my attention, shutting down the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Championship Series and
helping the Braves overcome a 3-2 deficit to win the series 4-3, winning both game six (1-0, the first Baseball game I ever saw live) and game seven in Pittsburgh. So it was onto the World Series, and after losing the first two games to the Minnesota Twins the Braves never-say-die attitude surfaced again, winning games 3, 4 and 5 in Atlanta with second baseman Mark Lemke being the unlikely hero. However even Lemke?s heroics could not deny Minnesota, who clinched the series by four games to three. The Braves were no flash in the pan though. They returned to the World Series in 1992 (again dramatically defeating Pittsburgh in the NLCS before losing the World Series in six games to Toronto) and played steadily to begin 1993. However in the middle of the season Schuerholz traded for Fred McGriff, and "The Crime Dog" sparked the Braves into hot pursuit of the San Francisco Giants. Both teams won over 100 games and had the best records in the National League. The Braves again won the division on the last day of the season, but were then dumped in the NLCS by the Philadelphia Phillies. Realignment meant that 1993 would be the Braves last in that National League West. For 1994 the Braves would move into the National League East. However any hopes of a title that year were dashed by the strike that ended the season prematurely, but the Braves would remain strong in 1995. By this point youngsters Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez and Ryan Klesko were breaking into the lineup. Marquis Grissom was a strong foundation at the top of the lineup, while the pitching rotation of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery was among the best in Baseball. Furthermore a steady closer had been found in Mark Wohlers. Finally everything came together, and in the 1995 World Series the Braves defeated the Cleveland Indians in six games to win the title it seemed might elude them. The 1996 Olympics meant two things for the Braves. Firstly a mass
ive road trip while the games took place, and secondly a new stadium after the games finished. In their last season at the old Fulton County Stadium they again returned to the World Series, but despite winning the first two games in New York (with Andruw Jones becoming the youngest player ever to hit a World Series Home Run in the process) the Yankees roared back, winning four straight to win the series in six games. It was especially hard on Wohlers, the reliable closer who gave up the critical Home Run to Jim Leyritz in game 4. The Braves moved across the street to the modestly named Turner Field (known by some locals as 'The Ted'), and while knocking half an athletics stadium down and making a baseball stadium seemed like an odd decision it works well. The stadium is state of the art, and when I visited it in 2000 I was very impressed with the comfort, the views, the concession stands, well, you name it, and I was impressed by it. On the highest level of the stadium there is actually a fine mist spray to cool fans down in the hot Georgia nights, something I have never seen in a stadium before. There are also giant blow-ups of current players' scouting reports on the walls of the concourses, which are fascinating to read. Be warned though, you will pay dearly for the food, if not the tickets (the cheapest seats come in at around the $10 mark). 1997 was the first year in the new stadium, and it promised much. However it was ultimately fruitless as the Florida Marlins knocked the Braves out of the NLCS in six games. 1998 was eerily similar, although this time it was the San Diego Padres who ultimately ended the Braves season. 1999 came and immediately there were difficulties. First baseman Andres Galarraga had come down with lymphoma, while catcher Javy Lopez was plagued with knee problems. With underperforming and often only semi-fit players (most notably Brian Jordan, who played for two months with a broken bone in his left h
and) around him Chipper Jones (who had a tough off-season when news of his marriage break-up became public news, and soiled his 'all-American boy' image) took the team on his shoulders and almost single-handedly carried them to an eighth-straight division title. He was voted as the National League's Most Valuable Player for his efforts, while at the same time Todd Van Poppel was struggling within the Texas Rangers organisation. The team though would come up just short, beating the New York Mets in another classic NLCS, but falling to the Yankees in four straight games in a disappointing World Series. 2000 was a season of contrasts. The pre-season saw relief pitcher John Rocker earn himself a ban for a verbal tirade (against just about everyone, but notably ethnic minorities and homosexuals) in an interview, while Andres Galarraga brought smiles to faces everywhere with his heroic (not to say largely successful) comeback. The team won another divisional crown, but were crushed in the first round of the playoffs by the St. Louis Cardinals, while the rival Mets took advantage of their Wild Card place in the playoffs and went to the World Series intead. Last year was a struggle. The fight for the National League East did not come from the Mets, but from the Phillies. It went all the way to the last week of the season, but finally the Braves prevailed. It was a tenth straight division title, a record in North American sports. In the playoffs the Braves surprised many by sweeping the Houston Astros, but they did not have the firepower to get past the eventual champion Arizona Diamondbacks. So why have the Braves not won more than the solitary World Series title over these years? I believe it has come down to a lack of hitting at critical times. In so many playoff series the hitters have collectively picked terrible times to go into a slump, and like any other sport when you do not score enough then you put yourself under a great deal
of pressure to stop the other team scoring. I think partially due to this Maddux and Glavine have found pitching in the playoffs more difficult that it should have been for them, as they have less margin for error than normal. This year though I am genuinely excited about the Braves prospects. In the off-season Schuerholz traded for All-Star outfielder Gary Sheffield, and brought back the now retired Terry Pendleton as the hitting coach. Contrary to a lot of media coverage I still think these are great moves, although Sheffield had been slowed by an injury. The current lineup oozes potential. Chipper Jones has moved to the outfield, alongside Sheffield and Andruw Jones, who was just voted onto the All-Star team and is widely considered to be the best defensive outfielder in Baseball - having seen him first hand I would recommend watching him as his combination of anticipation, speed, athleticism and hand-eye co-ordination is unbelievable. The infield is also working out well. The pickup of Vinny Castilla at third base was one I was sceptical of, but he is bringing home runs and playing great defence. Rafael Furcal is turning into a great shortstop as well as a dangerous hitter (although for his speed his baserunning needs a little work). Either Jesse Garcia or Marcus Giles can do a good job at second base, while Javy Lopez's form at catcher and the continual revolving door at first base are the only ongoing difficulties at present. The pitching remains strong, led by Glavine and Maddux. They are well assisted by Jason Marquis, Kevin Millwood and Damian Moss, while the bullpen (led by Mike Remlinger) is also performing well. The now veteran John Smoltz is now the closer, threatening to break Mark Wohlers' records and also make John Rocker a (thankfully) distant memory. At the moment the Braves are looking very good in the race for another division title, currently holding a nine game lead (in a 162 game season) ov
er the following pack. Barring injuries they should win the division, but then it will be a matter of how the hitting holds up in the playoffs. If it does hopefully I will be enjoying a lot of late nights watching live Baseball in late October.
Embarrassing moments - you have to love them, don't you? Well, I don't, but I will share mine anyway for a small financial reward known as Dooyoo points (note to self, I must not be bought so easily). I would love to tell stories of other people's embarrassing moments (a work colleague actually getting their tie shredded while they were wearing it being the best one I have ever seen), but I must bite the bullet and follow the instruction to tell of my own experiences. My first (and perhaps most) embarrassing moment came when I was at Sixth Form College. At lunchtimes and free periods I would go to the local town centre with my best friend, Neil. One day I found nature calling, and so went to one of the toilets there. While Neil was waiting uncomfortably outside we started to chat, discussing the following week's television. After a while I noticed I was getting no response. When I had finished I eventually found Neil outside the toilet and waiting in the shopping centre. Furthermore he was creasing up, telling me about how another gentleman had passed him and said, "Your mate is still talking in there." I was not amused. Fortunately for myself I did somehow manage to persuade Neil not to tell this story when it came around to his Best Man's speech at my wedding. I managed to do this largely by bluffing him, simply persuading him that he had told that many people the story that it would not be funny on the wedding day itself. That did not get me completely off the hook though. Instead of that Neil rang around a few friends, and then came out with a joke completely out of the blue. Talking about my enjoyment of sports Neil recalled, "I particularly remember when we used to go and play Pitch 'n' Putt in Southsea, and we used to turn up there and he was the only person that used to turn up with a complete set of Golf clubs." Ouch, I never saw that one coming. Slightly embarrassing, but something
I still laugh at because of the element of surprise. Moving on from my College days to my University days, well, I had my moments there too. For some reason my housemates and I became particularly engrossed in two things, Ricki Lake and the WWF. Every so often an argument or WWF bout would be recreated, only on one occasion I got things a bit wrong. Trying to give an example of a WWF head-butt on a plate I accidentally carried on a bit too far. My head just barely hit the plate, but unfortunately for me it was enough to break it clean in two. Needless to say this caused great amusement to my housemates. My final two stories come from an old friend. In fact I really liked her when I was twelve, but that is another story altogether. Anyway, one thing she has never let me live down was from when I first knew her. I think an edition of Blue Peter possibly inspired me, but I basically came up with a "Trip Around London" board game, all gloriously made with flimsy cardboard. Honestly, the executives as Waddingtons must have been quaking in their boots! How I love being reminded of that tale, every time I meet her! There is one worse story containing the same person, which took place at her sister's 21st birthday party. Upon seeing the same friend (now sixteen, and very much a young lady) dancing for a while with one man for a very long time I came to the conclusion that they were an item. A bit peeved that she had not even told me this was the case I went outside to compose myself, only for her to follow me. I asked if she was going out with the guy she had been dancing with, and after a moment that seemed to last an eternity she then almost rolled around laughing before telling me that the man in question happened to be her cousin. Ouch, ouch, ouch! I hope you have all enjoyed reading about some of my most embarrassing moments. I am now going to look for a crack in the ground and hope that it will open up and swallow me..
Picture living in Scotland's central belt. To the West of you is Greenock, a scenic drive into an admittedly run-down area. South-West of you is Ayrshire, full of beaches and short breaks to wonderful places like Millport and Arran. To the North-West is Loch Lomond, North of you are the Trossachs, North-East of you is historical Stirling. Traveling East takes you towards Edinburgh, South-East into the Clyde Valley and places like New Lanark, while the road South can get you anywhere pretty quickly. Yes, Scotland is a fantastic country with lots of beautiful attractions. However right in the middle of all this is Glasgow, to me the fly in the ointment. Now admittedly I am more than a touch biased having worked in Glasgow for four and a half years, but to me it shows some of the worst of what Scotland has to offer. However there is a lot of good to it as well. So starting with the bad... 1 - Sectarianism Think it only exists in Ireland? Sorry, the Catholic/Protestant divide exists in the West of Scotland too. It is over the entire region, but with Rangers and Celtic at the heart of it I'm afraid it is concentrated in Glasgow. If you have never experienced it before it will shock you, even if you only hear about it through "light-hearted" tales at work. Also I personally feel that there is a higher proportion of anti-English feeling in Glasgow. Although I have only received a few jibes personally a collective loathing does exist, especially when a World Cup is taking place (I cannot even begin to describe the "fun" that takes place). 2 - Traffic Want to get somewhere by car? Glasgow really isn't the city to do it in. On occasions when my wife has asked me to pick something up I will try and do it during a lunch hour during the week, rather than having to bring the car in. Admittedly traffic isn't as bad during the weekends, but if you leave at the wrong time getting caugh
t up in the post-match traffic from either Ibrox or Parkhead isn't any fun at all. In the week I quickly found out after moving here that taking the car into work is best avoided. This is for two reasons. i) If you do not have access to free parking it will generally cost you at least a pound an hour. ii) The M8 (which I would normally need to use) is a nightmare in the mornings. From one point after junction 13 (traveling westbound) when it is effectively five lanes wide it bottlenecks into being just two lanes wide going through the city centre. If there is a crash of any kind along the way the delays are considerably worse - I personally rate the M8 as being worse than the M25 for traffic and delays (although admittedly I've not had to use the M25 very much). Looking on the bright side both traffic and parking regulations/costs are a lot better at night, and to be fair it is marginally more car-friendly than Edinburgh. 3 - Grey and depressing On its day, when the sun is shining, Glasgow can look fabulous. However when the clouds come over the high proportion of grey buildings really do make it feel grim and depressing. There is not a lot of greenery around the city either, something I especially miss in the summertime. George Square (approximately ten minutes walk from where I work) does have some lawns to relax on, but unsurprisingly they are very busy in the summer. 4 - Weather It is not just the clouds that I mentioned earlier, it is not just the cold, the weather is just generally bad. There are some days when I am commuting into work that the weather progression seems like this: Get into car at home - seems like a nice day. Get onto bus in a nearby town (Wishaw/Motherwell) - a bit worse, breezy and a touch overcast. Arrive in Glasgow - where did the gusty wind and dark skies come from? Just after moving up here I was warned, "Don't go into Glasgow wit
hout an umbrella." When it rains here it can very quickly turn into a deluge, which is not a lot of fun! In addition to this during the winter you walk around a street corner and are greeted with a significant gust of wind, the type which sends a chill right through you. It makes Glasgow feel significantly colder than it probably is during the winter. It would be easier if we got nice summers, but at the moment we are struggling through a second consecutive year of terrible summer weather. Not funny! 5 - Hilly Perhaps not significant to everyone, but the City Centre is surprisingly hilly. If you catch a train to Central Station and never leave Argyle Street you won't see it, but if you explore up Buchanan Street (and towards either the bus station or Queen Street railway station) you will quickly become aware of it. You do not want to venture up Montrose Street to Strathclyde University either, as it is possibly one of the steepest roads I have ever seen! Again, it is not something you may consider, but walking around the city can be more strenuous because of it. Glasgow does have a good side (honestly!), and here are some of those for you to consider: 1 - Public transport Probably the best use of public transport I have seen in Britain outside of London. I have commuted into Glasgow by coach for almost as long as I have worked here, and it really is the best option to take. Express buses into Glasgow seem to run from just about everywhere, and if they are anything like the one I take they are probably very affordable (I currently pay £11.50 for a ten-journey ticket). Trains are also very popular. Along with mainline expresses the two City Centre stations (Glasgow Central and Queen Street) are well served from all directions, although a popular topic on the METRO letters page is how overcrowded many of the services are. In my opinion (based on personal experiences and hearing f
rom workmates who actually live in the city) Glasgow is one place where you can easily survive without a car. However once you get outside the city it is a little bit different, and a car is (in my opinion) essential. 2 - Shopping I have to admit that because I work in Glasgow five days a week I like to see as little of it as possible at other times, and will generally only go into Glasgow on weekends if I am dragged kicking and screaming by my wife. Being fair though, the shops in Glasgow are excellent. If you only count indoor centres you have three main choices: BUCHANAN GALLERIES (Buchanan Street, City Centre): Very clothes orientated, somewhat up market, big branch of John Lewis, over 70 shops. (www.buchanangalleries.co.uk) ST. ENOCH CENTRE (just off Argyle Street, City Centre): More of a mixture of stores, less up market, nicknamed "The Greenhouse" as it has a colosal glass roof (which leaks in the winter and traps heat in the summer, not a good combination), over 80 shops. (www.stenoch.com) BRAEHEAD CENTRE (off J25, M8, west of the city): A lot of clothes shops, but a good mixture, excellent food court and free parking (6500 spaces). Personally I find it a bit out of the way and end up thinking that it always disappoints me slightly. Over 100 shops. (www.braehead.co.uk) Further to that if you're prepared to venture outside there are countless other big stores on Argyle Street, Buchanan Street and Sauchiehall Street, including large branches of chains such as Marks and Spencer. Tip of the hat to Glasgow here, for shopping it is superb. 3 - Restaurants I have to admit to being positively biased here, as Glasgow has a few of my favourite restaurants. There are not many places that you will find two superb Mexican restaurants, but you can in Glasgow. Driftwood (formerly "Los Borrachos") on St. George's Road and Cantina Del Ray in King's Court are both super
b. On a more general scale I really like The Crystal Palace on Jamaica Street, a Wetherspoon's pub where food is both cheap and of good quality. Glasgow seems to have a good mix of various national restaurants. A number of Tapas bars have sprung up recently, and I have also seen a Sushi bar to go along with the more typical choices (Chinese, Italian, Indian, etc.). There is also a good choice of higher market places, which I have to admit are not my kind of thing. Still, whatever your choice of restaurant, you are likely to be able to find it in Glasgow. So overall Glasgow gets a grudging 3/5 from me. I am not a fan of it, but see what it has to offer. I would perhaps enjoy it more if I saw it on my own terms - time to search the job ads I think!
About a month before my wedding my fiancé and I realised we had a problem. Not a big one, just something that had become a bit of fun and which we wanted to stir up a little bit. Simply put Neil (my best man) was refusing to dance with his mother at our reception. This was not on in our opinion and we decided to do something about it! After a brief period of thinking we decided an online petition would be the way to go. I browsed and browsed for a suitable site, but some had problems with the site itself and others only took on board serious subjects. Fair enough, but our petition certainly was not meant to be serious, so we would have to look somewhere else. Eventually I came across petitionpetition.com. The site allowed fun petitions and it actually worked, so it would be our choice of online petition site. The site itself does not look spectacular. The lilac background does not inspire confidence, but the ease of navigation certainly helps. Before you start a petition you are taken through a guide, where all the plus points of the site are included. Included in these is the cost (free!), the features (inclusive message board and e-mail recommendation tool being the most useful) and the ease of downloading your signatures once the petition’s closing date has passed. Registration is simple. All you need is your name, e-mail address, password (typed in twice) and a password hint. That is all you need and you are ready to start your petition. (If you have already created an account all you need to do here is login instead.) So what do you need to start a petition? Well, you are prompted for every bit of information. Title, body of petition (where you describe your cause), a brief summary of the petition, the sponsor of the petition (yourself or the body you represent), recipient of the petition and starting and closing dates. Finally there is a prompt for e-mail addresses, where you can specify which friends of yours
will be told about your petition. Having completed this your petition is now ready to go, although you do have to wait two days for the petition to be operational (presumably this is where they weed out petitions which do not belong on the site). Once it is operational the e-mails go out and you wait for the signatures to stack up! You also get an e-mail with the petition address on it, so that you can include it in signatures, other e-mails, web sites, etc. Very useful! With a bit of help from some friends the signatures were soon totting up. Worryingly they were displayed in reverse order. Do not worry about this - when you download them after the petition has ended they are displayed in the correct order, and that also includes the signatures blanked out at the user’s request (a nice privacy feature if your petition is about something controversial). Be aware of a few things. Firstly, you might get some "junk" entries. Some friends of mine decided to bump up the numbers by putting names like "Seymour Butts" into the list. You cannot do too much about this. Some duplicate entries also creep through. Also be realistic, it is not the best looking site, so therefore your finished petition might not earn the desired result I dare say there are better options available. In fact if you do a bit of research you could probably set up a petition on your own web site without too much trouble. However, as a quick and fun home for a petition then you cannot beat petitionpetition.com. It is very easy for anyone to use and you will probably have a lot of fun with it. So, 43 signatures later, did my best man dance with his Mum? Yes, and not just once, but twice! Nice one Neil!
Ever wanted to keep an online diary, and share your life with other people? It may not be everyone's idea of fun, but if it is livejournal.com provides you with the opportunity to do it. I found out about livejournal.com in the oddest possible way. An internet user came across one of my sites through a link put on someone's livejournal. Naturally I followed the link back to that livejournal, and after a bit of looking around I found myself thinking, "This is a great idea, I need to set one of these up". Setting up a journal is free. This does limit your options in comparison with paying for a journal, but not by very much and certainly not enough to spoil your enjoyment of the site. If you do choose to pay then prices start at $25 (yes, it is an American based site, so factor in conversion rates if you want to take up this option) for a year, which is not at all bad. It is worth considering as it does allow you to customise your journal further, and include items like polls in it. However most of all you may want to contribute to livejournal.com to recognise their attempts to keep the site free of advertisements. At the moment I have a free account, and therefore all opinions that I give will be based upon this as a starting point. Once your journal has been set up it is easy to start writing. You can download a program to upload your journal from, but personally I find it easier to just use the form which you can use from the site itself. In my opinion this has two advantages: 1) You can update your journal from anywhere which has internet access. 2) You are not cluttering up your computer with more programs which you might not use very often. After you have finished your entry you are prompted to look at the updated journal. Here you will see the standard page with your fifteen most recent entries. There are also links to a calendar page (which summarises your entries by date), a friends page (
links to the live journals of other users chosen by yourself), a personal link and also your profile (which I have kept nice and vague... okay, I haven't really done anything on it!). Personally I like the openness and honesty of the site. This is what they say in regard to their "to do list" feature: "Note: The to-do list system is in beta. We're well aware it has a lot of work needed, and it definitely needs to be documented-- especially the security related things." While it is not perfect there is something I find refreshing in that. The site is more of a project than a profession, a passion rather than a problem. The people who run the site do so because they are involved in it, love the idea of it, and like giving a service which people enjoy. I found this to be the case when I needed help in setting up my journal. The site blurb indicates that, "LiveJournal's team of volunteer helpers is at work around the clock answering users' questions." Naturally I was cynical, but they're right. The answer to my question came very quickly and gave me the answers I needed, all within half an hour of my submitting my query and at a time (10am) which was not ideal for an American site (for whom it would have been between 5am and 2am, depending where the user would have been). You really cannot ask for much more. The site is nice and simple, and great fun to use. You do also have the option of allowing comments on your journal should you so wish, which I have found to have received positive feedback only. You do not have to have the comments feature enabled, which is a typically great feature of the site. Do you want something or not? It really is down to you. I cannot hide my enjoyment of this site. I do not have as much time as I would like to keep it updated, but it is fun when I can get around to it. Thankfully you can back-date entries, so my present updates that stem from
Stag Weekend are currently being written and then will go in with the date set back a couple of weeks. If you are desperate to get a read the URL is: http://www.livejournal.com/users/toneboy/ For the main livejournal site go to: http://www.livejournal.com I would recommend that you click on the "Random" link under "Find users" to get a really good feel for the site and what you can achieve with it.
There have been a lot of stories in the media recently that have speculated that Rangers and Celtic will eventually leave Scottish football and join the English premiership. I personally do not believe that this will happen (although the attitude in the media appears to be that it is inevitable), and here I will explain why. FIFA will not allow it According to recent reports there is only one club side in the world that is allowed to play outside of their own country. They are the Football Kingz side who play their home games in Auckland, New Zealand, but due to a lack of competition domestically play in the Australian National Soccer League. FIFA have said that is the only reason that they will give permission for a club to play in a league outside their own country. Besides the competition they provide for each other, Celtic and Rangers have been run reasonably close for the league by Hearts, Kilmarnock and Hibs in recent years. Scottish football, at least in the eyes of FIFA, provides enough competition for Celtic and Rangers. The threat to the national teams So if Celtic and Rangers are part of the Scottish league why not say that they are part of Britain, and form a British league? Well it comes back to having four separate national teams. The independent football associations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland protect their separate identities, and refuse to do anything to risk all the national teams being amalgamated into one, British national team. So do not plan on seeing a British League any time soon either. Opposition from smaller Premiership sides Is this a question you have ever considered? If Celtic and Rangers were to play in the premiership, who would they replace? Would five need to go down? Would only one team come up from the Nationwide Division 1? The Premiership certainly would not become larger again. Basically Celtic and Rangers would be replacing two smalle
r sides in the Premiership. Do you think that clubs like Southampton, Bolton, etc., are going to let that happen without a fight? Sure the Old Firm might be able to fill any away section in Britain, but clubs would pick the gravy train of realistic Premiership survival over two big gates every year. Not enough success in England One of the things which interests me is the way people talk about the Old Firm playing in England so that they would do better in Europe. Why do they necessarily think that they will be playing in Europe? I personally feel that both members of the Old Firm would finish somewhere between seventh and twelfth in the Premiership. No Europe. No endless string of league titles. Possibly a cup every now and again. Less success, more craving silverware, less souvenirs (especially videos) that the Old Firm currently pump out on a regular basis. The novelty would wear off pretty quickly if you ask me. Furthermore both clubs do have the ability to hit the self-destruct button every few years. While unlikely there is the possibility that one day one of the two could find themselves peering down the relegation trap-door, and who knows what would happen then? Too much power in Scotland So if the Old Firm did leave Scottish football what would happen to the rest of the Scottish game? Well it would be disastrous, apparently. And that is why the Old Firm are laughing. They know that a move to the English Premiership is not realistic, so why not just put the suggestion about and give everyone a scare? The Old Firm carry an awfully big stick in Scotland, and are prepared to use it to their advantage. Unsurprisingly they market themselves better than any other club, but they also take a hefty swipe of the TV money and can basically hold the other clubs in Scotland to ransom to get what they want (up to a point, obviously). If you were in a position with so much power would you freely relinq
uish it? Highly unlikely I would say. Media exposure of the dark side of the Old Firm My final point comes in regard to the media image of the Old Firm. In my opinion the English media glorifies the Old Firm, portraying them as two historic clubs with passionate supporters. Old Firm games are the games to be at, and the “religious” part of the rivalry is a mere footnote. Well let me shatter some delusions here for you. Both clubs have an evil, sectarian element. When they mention the clubs in relation to religion I suggest you do the following: Instead of linking Rangers with Protestants, think of Northern Ireland and the loyalist movement. Instead of linking Celtic with Catholicism, think of the Republic of Ireland and the republican movement. While it is by no means all of the supporters, there are Rangers fans who sing about being "up to their knees in Fenian (Catholic if you have never heard the term before) blood", while there are Celtic fans who sing about Irish battles and have been noted to carry flags indicating, "Provos on tour". Eventually this image would come out in the English press, and while fans of all other clubs in Scotland would be glad to see the back of it the eventual outcome would mean that in all likelihood the Old Firm would not be admitted to the English premiership. Those are just my views. Undoubtedly there are also advantages to the Old Firm playing in England, but as I said I really do not believe it will happen with all of the above reasons being factors in the final decision.
***Please note this review is about Topman, the male equivalent of sister store Topshop*** Topman clothes are aimed at hooligans, people making their first court appearance or just going to their first interview. Are these just my instincts? No, they are admissions made by Topman brand director David Shepherd in a recent interview. Typically there are claims that Mr Shepherd has been taken out of context, but the fact is he was quoted as saying, "Very few of our customers have to wear suits to work. They'll be for his first interview or first court case." When asked to clarify Topman's target customer he said, "Hooligans or whatever". These remarks, whether intended or not, come over very clearly. Personally I find that it backs my own thoughts, that Topman have slipped away from selling higher quality clothing and are aiming towards a younger, less mainstream client base who have less money to spend. When I first moved to Scotland (1997) I used to be in and out of Topman frequently. They sold a wide range of smart/casual shirts, Levis jeans at reasonable prices, plus a number of respectable accessories (e.g. sturdy belts, colourful ties, etc.). When the time came to buy a new suit I ended up buying a Willson suit from Topman. It was not quite as traditional as I had been looking for, but it was comfortable, looked respectable and at £90 offered me decent value for money. As time has gone on though Topman have moved away from that line in clothing. The range in jeans has become a virtual Moto (Topman's own brand) monopoly, the casual shirts are decreasing in number and the range of suits has become increasingly bizarre (On one occasion I saw a white leather suit on offer - no thanks!). Meanwhile the range of t-shirts has grown beyond all proportion, regardless of the season. They are not bad quality, but they seem to be dominated by various Oriental designs, which frankly I am not
too bothered about. Furthermore where Topman used to have a decent range of ties they too are dominated with Oriental designs. If a tie does not have an Oriental design on it then there is a high probability that it will be black, lovely and cheerful, NOT! Failing that you can have the "best" of both worlds - a black tie with an Oriental design shimmering away in the centre of it. Quite frankly whenever I go into Topman now I feel as if I do not belong there. I am older and looking for respectable clothes, while it feels as if Topman is going right after the younger male market. Occasionally there are still good deals to be found there (two Ben Sherman shirts for £35 seems to be a favourite offer of Topman), but overall their range of clothing is aimed too exclusively at what I feel is a "student market" and I rarely even take a glance around their stores any more. You might find something you are looking for in Topman, but do not count on it. In my opinion if you are aged 25 or over (or have graduated from University) you are wasting your time by looking for clothes in Topman, because at the moment they are not interested in catering for everyday people with everyday needs.
Hooray, hooray, it's a holi-holiday... but what do you need to take with you? Here is my basic checklist: 1-Plans Holidays, they're meant to be spontaneous right? Well, to a degree yes, but if you are going somewhere special it is worth putting together a list of places you would like to see. When I go away on holiday I do tend to have a rough plan containing places which I am planning to visit and when I intend to visit them. This is only a rough list, as I do not believe that holiday plans should be too rigid. However you do not want to miss out on seeing certain places, so a flexible plan tends to be the way to combine doing/seeing everything and not ruining your holiday by moving around with military precision. 2-The Necessary Paperwork "Can I see your passport please sir?" Always a good time to realise you do not have it with you, isn't it? Of course it isn't, but in my experience you can avoid this by keeping all of your most important documents in one wallet folder. Passports, driving licence (if you are hiring a car), holiday insurance documents, E111s (if travelling in Europe) and a list of traveller's cheque numbers (if you are taking them) should be among the documents included in this folder. (If I have missed anything please put it in the comments box and I will gladly add it to the list.) 3-A Positive Attitude 1988. I was a mere 13 years old, and I spent the last day and a half of a two and a half day break to Alton Towers worrying about leaving, and generally being miserable. In 1997 I came up to the last weekend of a nine-week trip to California. I remembered my lesson, had a very full weekend and (although I was sad to leave) was glad to have made the most of my time there. In 1998 one of my best friends and his wife came up to Scotland to spend Christmas with me. From the moment they arrived it was as if she had decided she was no
t going to enjoy herself, and therefore they both had a miserable time. Wherever I go, and whenever I go, I always try to make the best of it. I find it does help me to have a great time, and I do not think about going home until I absolutely have to. There is no need to get down about returning home earlier than you should. Make the most of the time you have in your holiday location. 4-Phrasebooks/Guidebooks Yes, they are essential in my opinion. I am very hesitant in attempting to speak in foreign languages, but it still remains a better option than pointing rudely at something and hoping that the person you are speaking to understands what you are talking about. Even if you are travelling to an English speaking location a phrasebook is still handy to help you with local intricacies 5-A Camera Imagine the situation. You get back from holiday. You're boring all your friends daft with endless tales of how wonderful it was, how beautiful that place was, but you do not have any photos to back it up or to remind yourself how good it was. In my opinion you must take a camera on holiday. People will ask to see photos (which obviously does not mean that you land an enormous box full of photos on their lap - wait until they ask to see them!) and they will also double as terrific reminders for your memory of what a fantastic trip you had. 6-A Good Read Hate waiting whilst travelling? So do I. Unfortunately it comes with the territory, so somewhere down the line it is worth having a good read to hand for that time when you are waiting in an airport terminal, railway station, or even just sunning yourself on a beach. One thing I would add here. Do not take a pristine hardback copy of a favourite book. Travelling by nature will bring bumps and bangs from time to time, and no matter how good a condition your book is in it is likely to get damaged in some way. They are also quite heavy
and bulky to carry around. Stick to magazines and paperbacks, and realise that at the very least they are going to get crumpled and pages will become dog-eared. 7-Local Maps Ever been lost somewhere? I dare say we all have at some time, and unless you have a terrific sense of direction and an uncanny ability to just find yourself wandering to the right place by luck a map is an essential thing to take. Most major places will have a small, foldable map available for usage. These are ideal, but if you plan to go further a field at the very least a small book will better suit your purpose. It used to be that you could only pick up such publications in the cities themselves, but in recent years I have noticed bookshops like Waterstones and Borders now keep an extensive range of maps (covering both cities and roads) in stock. 8-Medicines/First Aid This an especially important one in my opinion, and might be for you if (like me) you have a mild condition which only affects you part of the time. I am Asthmatic, but the condition rarely bothers me. However I still take my medication on holiday with me, just in case. You never know when something might happen, so if you are considering what not to pack to save baggage space do not consider not packing your medicines. Obviously this is even more important if you have a serious condition, i.e. my fiancée is diabetic and therefore we check, double-check and triple-check to make sure she has enough insulin with her. A small first aid pack is also useful. Here I must confess that I leave this to my more medically knowledgeable better half, but handy items like plasters, headache tablets, etc. come in useful here. 9-The Essentials In 1991 I went to Florida with my parents. In an effort to save space in my bag I decided to dispense with socks, taking only one pair to wear travelling out and one pair to wear coming back. Needless to say after a few days
my trainers stank like I did not believe was possible and my parents took me into a sports shop to stock up with socks. I was not popular! The lesson of this? No matter how clever you think you are being do not dispense with the essentials. Take them, or risk becoming an unpopular member of your party. It is a holiday, not your own personal version of "Survivor". 10 - Someone To Share It With Wandering around San Francisco in 1997 I found myself awe-struck with the beauty of the place. Alcatraz in the middle of the bay, the sun setting behind the Golden Gate Bridge, the relaxed nature of Pier 39. However I felt that something was missing - someone to share it with. Before you go accusing me of not thinking of single people I do not necessarily mean a partner. Any good friend will do. I am not saying that you should travel with someone rather than not at all, but it does make the trip more worthwhile. My trip to Atlanta in 2000 with my fiancée is special because we shared it, because we have the same memories and can look back at the photos and remember where we were and how much we enjoyed it. Sharing memories does make a holiday better, but that is just my opinion, and while I would have liked to have shared all my journeys with people that does not mean that I regret taking them alone. It is just a preference.
Some of the problems I have had with my computer have become Dooyoo legend. My most recent and significant problem came about due to what was thought to be a graphics card problem. As a result of this a friend of mine recommended an ATI RagePro graphics card. At this very moment in time my considered thought is that has been one of the worst purchases of my life. After an initial period when we actually found out that the processor chip was the problem we put the graphics card into place (easy enough), and then went to install the CD. Problem number 1 - there was no installation CD in the box, only a couple of CDs to demonstrate the DVD capabilities of the card. Struggling around we found a driver on their website, along with the need to have at worst version seven of Direct X installed on your computer. That would be fine, but all we could find on the internet at the time was a very early edition of Direct X eight, which was by no means perfect and could cause lots of problems. Still, we had just about enough (by downloading only an old driver) to get it to work at an okay level on the computer. Unfortunately the multimedia centre could not be downloaded from anywhere, and that was one of the reasons why I bought the card in the first place. I filled in the customer service form on their site, and was greeted by the encouraging message that they would not reply to me if I did fill every field on the form in correctly. I made sure all the details were correct meticulously, right down to the place where I bought it, bar code numbers, everything. After a few weeks of not hearing anything I took a look around the web, and found their European website. I found out that their European operation is based in Dublin, and that they recommend that you try and phone them! Given that I had not heard from them via e-mail I suspected I would be kept on hold for a very long time if I called the number, so I did not risk the cost of an expensive
phone call and filled in another form. It was only six weeks later that I got a reply, and in fairness it was a very nice reply, promising that an installation CD would soon be landing on my doormat. Sure enough it was, and off I went to complete the installation. As they did not send any further instructions I just popped in the CD and let the installation program run. It ran, finished, and asked for me to restart the computer. I did so, only to find when Windows 95 loaded back up that a required .DLL file was missing. It was only thanks to the help of some friends that I found this .DLL file. I used my initiative to find another, and am now greeted by Explorer performing an illegal operation every time I start Windows 95. I do not see any of the items on my Desktop, I cannot run anything from my start menu, and I cannot even run the Windows 95 setup program again because apparently I need to reset my display options in Control Panel. Small problem (you have probably guessed it), I cannot access that either. So now this graphics card has caused me more problems than you can possibly imagine. I do not plan to go back to ATI, as I would not expect to receive an answer. I have a computer, full of wedding plans and other important documents on it that I cannot access. ATI say that their product is compatible with Windows 95b (which I run) - I beg to differ. If an ATI employee is reading this and would like to respond please feel free to do so. Register and put your reply in the comments box. I would be interested to hear your "reasons" for why your product has caused me such significant problems, and just why I should not tell my friends to avoid your products like the plague.
Even to this day I am not sure exactly what it was about this advert that made it so popular among myself and my friends, but it is still an advert I look back at with great affection. It was seemingly based within Tango headquarters, with a grainy picture of Mr Gardner reading a letter of complaint from a young French exchange student called Sebastian. The complaint? That Blackcurrant Tango was not as nice as the other Tango flavours. Ray apologises in a seemingly normal manner, before beginning an epic riposte. He describes how passionately he feels about Blackcurrant Tango, and introduces Geoff, who has been working on Blackcurrant Tango for three years. Slowly a group is building around him, and music is faintly playing. It used to be only at this point that you would fully recognise the advert, and slowly smile as you knew what was going to follow. Ray gradually gets more and more agitated, as he smoothly makes the transition from businessman to boxer. The scene changes smoothly too, as Ray first walks from a corporate business site and ends up marching and then jogging into a boxing ring beside some white cliffs (thought to be at Dover). However it is not the smooth changes in clothing and scenery that made this advert memorable, it was the dialogue. Passionate and angry in his defence of Blackcurrant Tango, Gardner's words could be misinterpreted as anti-French racism. Personally I did not find anything especially funny in the famous "You're one dissenting voice in a billion Johnny French, you're that!" line, indeed that might have been the weakest line in the whole script. However it was this effortless transformation from corporate representative to scowling madman which made the advert (and indeed a big impression upon impressionable young men such as myself). The rage and sheer political incorrectness of the call, "Come on France! Europe! The World! I'll take you all on!" bro
ke with convention and could not fail to raise a laugh, no matter how many times you saw it. I do not know how much the advert cost to make. It appears cheap to begin with due to the poor picture quality, but that surely must have been balanced by the presence of two Harrier Jump Jets at the end? And how long did it take to make? It appears to be a "one-take" commercial, but again they surely must have taken an awful lot of time to show the magnificent aerial view of the scene at the end? This is probably still my favourite advert of all-time. They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and even to this day the jokes of "Come on then!" and "I'll take you all on!" are still heard occasionally. Here's to you, Ray Gardner. You truly are a legend, even if you failed to convert me (or indeed even make me think of) Blackcurrant Tango.
Picture the situation. Your home computer is on the blink, you have not been able to turn it on for weeks. Your trips to your web-based e-mail are taking longer and longer because you are no longer just downloading a handful of e-mails from your home address, but hundreds. And what do these hundreds comprise of? Well, to put it basically, junk. "How to earn lots of $$$s", "RE: Your e-mail", and "Top Search Engine Placement!". If you have been using e-mail for any significant amount of time you will be able to instantly recognise subject lines like the above examples, and will know to delete them without opening them (the same is largely true with some "From" names, which automatically give themselves away by their name, e.g. Webmaster, Club Haburi, et al.). Do you find yourself being frustrated at having them stuck on your account whenever you check your web-based e-mail at work? Would you like to get rid of them? Now you can. Twigger is a site which allows you to check your home e-mail from anywhere in the world, but unlike any web-based e-mail account that I have ever used it allows you to pick and choose which e-mails you can keep and which ones you delete from your POP server - permanently! You simply go to the Twigger home page and enter your ISP username and password, and then select your ISP from a drop-down list. Unsurprisingly that is a pretty big list, but what you can do to save time is to tab onto the drop-down list from your password box and type in the first letter of your ISP. This will at least mean that your ISP is a little bit nearer for you to find. Once you have submitted your information Twigger will then retrieve your e-mails from your ISP, and then display them in pages of 25 messages each. From there you can read messages, reply to them (should you want to - I do not as their reply options are very limited in my opinion) or delete them. Once deleted the mess
ages are gone forever, without affecting any of the other messages you may wish to download from your POP server. It is a simple site, but is the definition of "Very Useful" in my opinion. It stops junk mail (especially junk with attachments, which are marked with a floppy disk symbol) from coming anywhere near my home computer, and is a secure site which only keeps your username, password and messages for 24 hours on their server. Also, should you be in the unlikely position that your ISP is not on their list you can simply e-mail them. At the earliest opportunity they will add it to their already comprehensive list. All this and it does not cost you a penny! I have had two main uses of this site. They are: 1. When my home PC was not working I was initially told about this site. At the time there were over 700 e-mails on my account. After using Twigger I was able to ditch over 500 junk/old e-mails which I did not want to keep. The other time my home PC was not working it took me a whole evening to delve through over 800 e-mails, so in this respect Twigger had saved me a lot of time. 2. On a daily basis I receive a significant amount of spam. Being able to log on to Twigger at work allows me to delete this while still allowing other e-mails through to my home PC. Another great time saver. This is one site I am really glad to have found out about. As you can probably tell it is a site I visit frequently. It suits my purposes, working quickly, costing me nothing and saving me hours of time in reading junk e-mails. I would highly recommend this site to anyone. http://www.twigger.co.uk
I have had this site recommended to me by a number of friends, who refer to it as a reliable source of knowledge for all the stories you hear (or receive through a chain e-mail, grr!) which are quoted as true, but turn out to be myths (or Urban Legends as they are referred to here) at best. If you (like myself) had expected the site to be quite humourous you may feel mislead, for while there is humour it really only appears in small doses. Instead the site is largely filled with factual research into these legends. So what is an Urban Legend exactly? Well, it is defined on the site as a story (which is not necessarily false) which makes a good story, spreading quickly in various forms and containing an element of horror or humour. A vast number of these are listed on the site, which is broken up into the following categories: Animals, Books, Celebrities, Classic, Collegiate, Death, Disney, Drugs, Food, Gif, Language, Legal, Medical, Misc, Movies, Politics, Products, Religion, Science, Sex, Songs and TV. So what specific stories might you recognise on the site? Well, do you remember Craig Shergold, the boy with the brain tumour who wanted to receive a world record number of get well cards? Well, it turns out that he is still receiving lots of cards (if you are thinking of sending one please don't - the family have asked for them to stop, and there are ideas here for you to do something useful instead). Every heard the story that Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie were gay? Well it turns out that this was false, and you can read the full Children's Television Workshop denial of the story on this site. So a great number of Urban Legends are proved to be false, but there are also stories which are proved to be true. Does the story of Helicopter crashes at Disneyworld sound too ridiculous to be true? Well it has happened (and not just once either!), and the details are there (along with reliable references) to prov
e it. Did Japanese soldiers really hide out on Pacific Islands thinking that World War II was still going on? Yes, that is true as well, and the documentary evidence of one who surrendered in the Philippines in 1974 is detailed here. Some other stories, including some especially grim ones, are reported factually on the site. One particularly nice touch within the site is the link marked "Dredged Report", which brings up an article which claims that Urban Legends websites are false and are actually the work of the American Government. Personally I am prepared to take this as nothing more than simple humour, as the possibility of a site which seeks to clarify falsehoods being false itself is a bit too much for my brain to digest. ;) The site itself is not the easiest to look at. The format is somewhat bland, with the stories being replicated exactly from old newsgroup messages (yes, including e-mail addresses, reply ">" marks and the like). Add in the nauseous brown background, navy boxes and horrible font (Argonaut they tell us, presumably to enable us not to think about using it ourselves) and it means that the content must be really good to bring you back. The site is interesting, no question about it, but it is not as funny as you might have expected. It is a very tidy and well presented site, but maybe one only worthy of visiting once in a blue moon. Urban Legends can be found at: http://www.urbanlegends.com And can be discussed at: alt.folklore.urban
I know what you're thinking. "This is cpf1993, Baseball addict, going on about some Baseball film with a limited appeal to a limited audience." Well if you think I am a Baseball addict you are probably right, but if you think that this film has a limited audience you would be wrong, as it is only about Baseball as much as you want it to be. The story is set around Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), who lives on a farm in a remote part of Iowa with his wife Annie (Amy Madigan) and daughter Karin. The film starts with Ray's life story, taking us from his father's early life to his present situation, where he tells us that he has never done a crazy thing in his life. At that point he hears a voice from his cornfield, telling him "If you build it, he will come". Ray, naturally enough, ponders upon his own sanity. However the voice is reinforced through a dream and vision, and he sets about destroying his corn crops and building a Baseball field instead. This turns out to be a wonderful, fantasy world, where dead Baseball players return to fulfill the dreams they never realised. Typically his actions are met with derision, but yet they are fully justified when onto the magical field steps "Shoeless" Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta - who evokes passion and warm humour in great measure in his role), his late father's hero, a man infamous for taking money from gamblers before the 1919 World Series. That action caused him to be banned for life, despite the popular belief held by many (including the Kinsellas) that he was innocent. The story itself is told in interesting fashion, as Ray retells the story Karin. This works well, as it allows us in on the basics and helps to keep non-Baseball fans interested. Just in case you're wondering, the story of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson is a true story, and has another film devoted solely to it (called "Eight Men Out"). Beyond the baseball field mo
re and more players appear from the remaining corn. It appears to be a Baseball heaven, but fantasy meets reality as Annie's brother Mark (Timothy Busfield - excellent in an especially significant supporting role) warns Ray of the financial problems the farm faces. Here you wonder where the story is going. "Shoeless" Joe Jackson has appeared, but wasn't the film meant to be about him? Well, actually, no it is not. Back to his farming duties Ray hears the voice again, begging him to "Ease his pain". Somewhat perplexed he seeks to see what it is about. Following a tenuous link through a school parents meeting, Ray follows the road to Boston to find an old (fictious) writer called Terrence Mann (played superbly by James Earl Jones - interestingly the part was written with him in mind). With the grandeur of his voice Jones fits the bill of the old, intellectual hermit writer perfectly. He is tired of being pestered, and treasures his solitude. Indeed Ray has to engage him in what turns out to be quite an amusing argument before Terrence agrees to go with him to Boston's Fenway Park, an historic Baseball stadium. But it is not Brooklyn's Ebbets Field, the stadium that Terrence Mann longed for. So isn't the film about him? Well, actually, no it is not. Ray sits through the game expecting something to happen, although nothing appears to. Then he catches a name on the scoreboard. Only he appears to have seen it, as no-one else reacts to it and Terrence also claims he did not see it. The difference is that he did, and under the voice's prompting to "Go the distance" they both head to Chisholm, Minnesota in pursuit of Archibald "Moonlight" Graham (again a character based on a real person) a player who only played in one game and never got the opportunity to bat. At the same point it is almost certain that Ray will lose his farm, only Annie (still in Iowa) refuses to tell him how bad thi
ngs are. Upon arrival in Minnesota they pursue "Moonlight" Graham, only to discover that he died in 1972. Whilst being told of the kindness of "Doc" Graham the two companions find themselves warming to him. Then Ray takes a walk one night, and finds himself taken back to 1972. Naturally he meets the kind-hearted Doctor (whom Burt Lancaster has made to be as warm-hearted as you might expect), although he is surprised when the Doctor refuses the chance to come to Iowa. Heading dejectedly back to Iowa Ray and Terrence spot a young man seeking a lift. Strangely it is a young Archie Graham. Here there is a brief continuity error. Graham is not within the confines of the field which the players are stuck between. It is a small error, but one which exists nevertheless. Naturally Graham gets his chance to bat and fulfill his dreams. So is the film about him? Well, actually, no it is not. You start to see so many wonderful things happening to so many people. Jackson, Mann and Graham all experience this, and yet the film is about none of them. There is one character who appears who I cannot mention for the risk of spoiling the film, but it is "he" who comes and makes quite an ending of the film. Before I conclude I must mention a few other points. Firstly, along with the continuity errors (which you do have to pay close attention to notice, so I do not think it will spoil your viewing) some of the special effects are a bit dated now. Remember this film was released in 1989, and unsurprisingly the effects are reminiscent of the time. Fortunately the film is not dependent upon them, they merely help the story along. I must mention the director, Phil Alden Robinson. I am not aware of any other films he has done, but he has tackled this film superbly and allowed it to sweep you along with the emotion that is attached to it. He also uses some very clever camera angles which are worthy of note. The end is a
clear example of this (you will have to watch it if you do not know what I am talking about!), but also when Ray is destroying his corn crop you are right in the cornfield with him but without it being either noticeable or intrusive. This direction, combined with a superb soundtrack from James Horner (far superior and more appropriate than his Titanic soundtrack in my opinion) are key attributes to the film, but without you thinking about it. So what is the film about, if it is not about Baseball, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, Terrence Mann or "Moonlight" Graham? Frankly this film is not so much about people. It is about relationships, dreams and valuable opportunities for redemption. While reluctant to admit it I have to confess that upon watching this again recently I cried uncontrollably at the ending. That, along with the simple message "For our parents" in the closing credits, really hit home, and mean that as well as a wonderful film you also have food for thought. Field of Dreams, 1989 - running time 101 minutes. (N.B. This film can normally be picked up quite cheaply on video from high-street stockists. I myself got my copy in a 3 for £12 sale at HMV.)