Saturday, 30 January 2016

Discussion Point: The Big Short

So, thanks to a good mate of mine I recently had the pleasure of checking out the The Big Short. An excellent film, for all the reasons which makes an excellent film just that.

Films like this extend the conversation beyond “the ball game”, to quote Steve Carell, not to mention various other luxuries we as occupants of the Western World are afforded.

I’m not going to get into the nuts and bolts of The Big Short. I don’t often frequent in watching films, although I know I should be doing better on that front. The fact that Ryan Gosling is a mighty fine actor; the fact that the film provides snappy dialogue and a good balance between cutting-edge and raw cinematography. Other sites and blogs will provide far more articulate commentary on the subject.

This post is mainly to present some observations after watching The Big Short. You might think it’s complete and utter bullshit. Maybe not, however the important thing is that people are having the conversation. Here are some points to consider: 
  • What’s to stop this mass catastrophe from happening again? The government bailed out these crooks with tax payers’ money. What’s stopping them from doing it again? I’d imagine bankers’ egos would be a similar size to their bank balances, so I wouldn’t put it past a collective group of educated criminals pulling a similar stunt.
  • Governments don’t run countries in the Western World; banks do. They always have and always will, which leads me to believe that a similar stunt could happen in the near future. If not by the same methods, but certainly the same outcome. 
  • Speaking of government’s, Barack Obama’s omission from the wrath is interesting. After all, Goldman Sachs was a major contributor to his campaign fund. For more information on that, check this out. Although speculative, I’d hedge my bets and say they are still lining his pockets in some way, shape, or form. I wouldn’t put it past the other major banks doing something similar. 
  • While I say it’s interesting that the President of the United States of America escapes any verbal fury, it wasn’t Adam McKay’s and Charles Randolph’s intention to draw upon this facet in the long line of greed and that’s fair enough. They remained on their artistic course and didn’t contaminate the core of the story by railroading it. However, by the same token it almost feels like the elephant in the room. It’s okay to call a democratic leader out. It really is and while there are a lot of shy conservatives about, there’s just as many shy leftists afraid to call out the man who wrapped a package of "hope" and sold it to the world, as false as it is now. In fact, it always was. Whichever your political persuasion, the left are certainly not immune from parasitic tendencies and suffice to say Obama is in the long line of parasites known as politicians. In fact, the cynic in me says that this is somewhat of an oxymoron. What was it that Philip Kerr’s character, Bernie Gunther, once said? “Politicians are more crooked than the crooks”. Very true. 
  • Although a platitude, it’s worth pointing out. There’s too much money in the world. Don’t agree? Well how about this. In terms of the world’s population, the richest 1 per cent own 50 per cent of the world’s total wealth. Still don’t agree? You must be wealthy. I am a believer that money should be distributed fairly throughout all social demographics. And before you ask: no, I’m not a socialist. I just believe in fairness. The problem here, however, is the world ostensibly hinges on this perpetuating ideology that there must be the rich and there must be the poor. If this simplistic view held by mass culture can’t change, then taking money from the global economy won’t affect the poor, simply because they haven’t got – or had - any to begin with. Which begs the question, why should the rich prosper from endless amounts of the stuff? 1 per cent of the world’s population own 50 per cent of the world’s total wealth. I know I’m repeating myself, but that’s worrying as much as it is staggering. Obviously this idea won’t materialise, though, because like the mortgage scam so succinctly exposed during The Big Short, banks and governments will always find a way for the rich to prosper, just like they will find a way to crush any spirit those of the lower socio-economic and working class still have. In fact, by this point, another film will probably be made on the very subject. 
  • There’s a lot of talk during the film about the possibility and probability of things. Well, I’d say the probability of Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling et al voting for Obama back in 2009 is above that 5 per cent mark Steve Carell pointed out during the film. Paradox? Welcome to the life we live, folks; one convoluted headfuck where the contradictions actually contradict themselves.

 By Simon K.

U.S. Girls Australian/New Zealand Tour

Like all end of year lists, there are always artists who narrowly miss out on recognition due to their omission. Meghan Remy's U.S. Girls and more specially her excellent album, Half Free, was one album that was banging down the door to be included in my top 50 album list, however narrowly missed out.

U.S. Girls have announced an Australian and New Zealand tour for March and if Half Free is anything to go by, then this is a show not to be missed. Tour dates as follows:

March 5: Spectrum Now Festival (w/ The Jesus & Mary Chain, Alvvays et al) - Sydney, Aus
March 6: Sydney Opera House (supporting Sleater-Kinney) - Sydney, NZ
March 7: Whammy Bar - Newtown, NZ
March 9: Black Bear Lodge - Brisbane, Aus
March 12: Golden Plains Music Festival - Meredith, Aus

For tickets, visit Oztix.

Check out this interview with Remy via Vice, which touches on presidential elections and feminism. Insightful stuff.

By Simon K.


Wednesday, 27 January 2016

We’re Off to Wembley!

Liverpool Football Club, how you continue to destroy my health….

The home side were far from their best on the night, and in actual fact were quite poor for the most part. However, Stoke weren’t too bright themselves, and Mark Hughes may just be rueing the fact that he left Xherdan Shaqiri on the bench from the outset.

This narrative being spun by journalists and pundits that Stoke deserved their win in regulation time with the solitary goal, which was incorrectly ruled onside and by margins where a Sunday league linesman would have flagged, is rather interesting. For as long as I can remember, a “good effort” shouldn’t mask poor officiating to the point where commentators become more relaxed in their critique. Unless I’m reading a rulebook which fell from Noah’s Ark, I didn’t think such things were written in the bylaws? The whole attitude of “it was marginally offside, but Stoke played well and deserved their win on the night” doesn’t hold water with me and, if anything, questions any impartiality the said commentator(s) might have.

If brutal honesty has a seat at the table then Liverpool should have put the tie to bed at the Britannia Stadium three weeks earlier. In any case, any narrative involving the officials was thankfully quashed by the better side prevailing over two legs of football.

Special praise needs to be guided Simon Mignolet and Joe Allen’s way. The unsung heroes got Liverpool over the line tonight. It’s well documented that the big Belgian has had his problems this season, however it was nice to see him prosper in this moment. As for the man known as the “Welsh Xavi”. Good things seem to happen when Joe Allen takes his place on the pitch. His cool finish from the penalty spot ensured the Redmen continue their path to potential cup glory. Yes, Jurgen Klopp’s men are off to Wembley!


By Simon K.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Discussion Points: Norwich City F.C. vs. Liverpool F.C. - 4-5

Firstly, I apologise for the lack of all things Liverpool Football Club throughout these parts of late. I took a break during the Christmas period and just can’t get my arse back into gear. Let’s be honest, though; sites such as Soccernet and the Echo provide similarities that a bloke with his post office bank account just can’t compete with.

Whilst on the subject of “woe is me”, the weekend’s fixture against Norwich has easily taken ten years off my life. I’m sure others of the Red persuasion harbour similar apprehensions. It was so crazy that not even that night in Istanbul provided us with that much of a rollercoaster of emotions. It was simply absurd, and if you wanted to find an example of the grotesque and euphoric examples football can provide within such a short space of time, then the events at Carrow Road provided this flawless narrative. I’m just happy the Redmen came away victorious otherwise that ten year reduction in life expectancy may have extended to twenty.

So, for something different. Here are some discussion points from the match. I would love for you guys to debate on the below issues. Why do you think?:

  • Let’s not mince words here. Liverpool’s set piece defending is beyond shambolic. The worst I’ve seen it, in fact. Paul Tomkins’ article sheds some light on the matter in rather fine fashion. Read here.
  • If I caught my wife in bed with my next door neighbour, would I blame Simon Mignolet? No, but some probably would. Now, I have reservations about his form as much as the next man, but to lay blame at his doorstep for any of Norwich's four goals is simply ridiculous. Those guilty, put your knives back in the drawer and do a Sudoku.
  • We probably didn’t deserve three points, and for that I do feel sympathy with Norwich. However, as we know, football is a funny game and while we were unlucky not to take the points against Manchester United and perhaps arguably against Arsenal as well, the law of averages have evened themselves out after the weekend’s play. Either that or there may just be a football God… 
  • Roberto Firmino is starting to show signs of the player we all thought he could be. Five goals and five assists in a season where he has been in and out of the starting line-up, not to mention playing in different positions. If it weren’t for better finishing from some of his teammates, he could have a further three assists and that’s not mentioning that he has also hit the woodwork on three separate occasions. There’s more to come here, folks. 
  • Jordan Henderson, whilst very much below par, provided a moment which displayed leadership. His goal helped claw Liverpool back into the game. Leadership has been a glaring facet which Liverpool have lacked this season, but this moment provided some of that. 
  • Does a midfield three of Henderson, Lucas, and Emre Can work? Can looks rather uncomfortable in this set-up and appears to work better with one of Lucas and Henderson.
  • Although James Milner has been much maligned this season, his second half display was arguably his best performance in a Red shirt. Strangely enough, it came from operating on the left hand side. 
  • Speaking of the left hand side, Alberto Moreno’s spot in the starting eleven is under threat. If Brad Smith isn’t banging on the door for a run in this team, then Jon Flanagan certainly is. Moreno’s defensive issues have been well documented, however it may be the time for Klopp to take him out of the firing line. 
  • Jurgen Klopp loves Adam Lallana. Although many may not agree, he is the hardest working player in the team and it seems the hard work finally paid off. His introduction completely changed the complexion of the match and enabled Liverpool to press high, win the ball and move the ball quicker in key areas of the pitch. Let’s hope he can kick on and add to his goal tally. 
  • That goal celebration. Words can’t explain. Be happy and just laugh (especially at Kolo Toure!). Jurgen Klopp is a complete nutter and I have to say I love it!

By Simon K.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

New Year, New Book - The Straight and Narrow Coming Soon!

A very happy new year to you all!

What better way to kick off the new year than to release a new book?

That's right, folks. My new book, The Straight and Narrow, will be released in March. Once again, the fine people at Australian Ebook Publisher are helping me out in getting it to the point of release. The very talented Gary Young has once again assumed the role as illustrator. Here's the cover:

And, of course, here's the description: 
As a child, Giovanni Salvatore harbours aspirations to be the next Michael Corleone. Thirty years on and one could say his aspirations are met. Well, sort of….

Since his humble beginnings, which include the Salvatore family moving from their native Italy to Australia, at the ripe age of sixteen Giovanni inadvertently becomes embroiled in a sea of devastation, which is the fuel for his uncompromising ascent to the top, as President of the Heaven’s End Motorcycle Club: Sydney’s longest running bikie gang.

In a bid to clean up his beloved club and stay on the right side of the law, first Giovanni is required to relive some of those gut-wrenching moments of the past, none more divisive than reacquainting with his old amico and working class hero, Raymond “Razor” Reynolds, who himself is reinvigorated after serving a twenty year prison sentence and swapping the doldrums of the Silverwater Correctional Complex for the sunny climes of Queensland.

The Straight and Narrow will be available from all major online vendors. Stayed tuned for further updates.

Simon K.