Don’t Dive In

Please head over to dontdivein.com, the new site I am creating to give you the best stories from the clubs that make up all seven steps of the non-league football pyramid – from Coleshill Town to Luton Town.

The site is still a work in progress but I’d love to know what you think of it, so do not hesitate to contact me on Twitter, Facebook, or even by email with any ideas you may have.

I’d also really appreciate it if you could follow/like those Twitter and Facebook pages I have set up and linked to above.

Cheers

Joell

Blowing Bubbles fanzine

Just to update you, I am writing for Blowing Bubbles, an unofficial West Ham United fanzine.

If you’re interested, you can view all the articles I write for Blowing Bubbles without parting with any dough, because each issue can be viewed online for free. Just follow this link to the Blowing Bubbles website if you want to have a look around: http://www.blowing-bubbles.co.uk/.

 

The perils of being a casual smoker

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I grew up in a house where both matriarch and patriarch smoked cigarettes on a regular basis. They didn’t go outside to do it either. The smoking ban was almost inconceivable back then (less than ten years ago), so the thought of venturing out in to the cold for a cigarette only to prevent second-hand smoke was laughable.

As a result of my forced inhalation of poisonous substances, combined with finding my voice post puberty, I gave my dear old mum quite a lot of jip about her habit. Why wouldn’t I? She made me and my clothes stink.

But now, having fallen into the trap of unwittingly joining the rat race, I am wise to the fact that us rats need masochistic stress relievers like cigarettes just to be able to deal with all the shit we encounter in the sewers on a daily basis.

Not only that, but I have tasted the addiction smokers are afflicted by – ‘afflicted’ is probably the wrong word there because a smoker’s addiction is undoubtedly self-inflicted, but I’ll leave that term in there just to convey my new understanding of a smoker’s plight. After all, I have now felt the extremely powerful magnetism nicotine possesses.

Because of this, I must now class myself as a casual smoker. Although shame causes my stomach to contract when I accept that – but that could just be my irritable bowel.

Nevertheless, no one likes a casual smoker. Non-smokers detest them more than they do smokers – at least smokers have some dedication and allow their habit to cripple them financially as well as physically. To non-smokers, ‘the casuals’ are disgraceful, suicidal fools intent on dragging out their martyrdom for as long as possible.

Smokers dislike casuals for more possessive reasons, regarding them as lowly, half-hearted scroungers. (A smoker will, however, embrace a casual like long-lost kin if said smoker is alone among a pack of non-smokers, especially on a night out in the peak of winter. That’s just simple safety-in-numbers thinking.)

Luckily for everyone but the subject, a casual smoker’s position is as temporary in nature as a kamikaze pilot’s, with similar results, minus the honour.

The descent from casual to full-blown smoker is a sheer drop into a deadly abyss. Not that I’m one for hyperbole or anything.

This is a somewhat autobiographical tale of how someone becomes a smoker, told in the second person to make you feel more involved:

It all starts with a drunken, “Can I have a drag of that?” on a few nights out. This is obviously because the consequences of smoking are the last of your worries when you can’t see straight. Alcohol’s ability to make you feel invincible can sometimes be subtle, but always lethal.

The trouble is… you enjoy it. It makes you feel even more relaxed than alcohol alone, and who doesn’t want to feel more relaxed?

Eventually you start thinking ‘I could just do with a cigarette now’ every time you have a drink. So you begin to actively seek out those among your group of friends that smoke and (politely) ask them for a cigarette, always saying: “I just like smoking when I have a drink,” more to yourself than the friends that raise their eyebrows at you.

Very soon you are buying your own cigarettes. Although they do last quite a while, your claims of never smoking sober only give your addiction another barrier to destroy. And, when it comes to destruction, a nicotine addiction is comparable to a Michael Bay movie; just replace Optimus Prime and Bumblebee with your own lungs.

By now you are pretty much a full-blown smoker. All it takes is a particularly stressful day at work, halfway in between which you realise those cigarettes are in your bag. You immediately assume they are the ointment to the mental stress rash that’s consumed your brain and go for a smoke. Your colleagues see this and you’re soon invited on the fag breaks with the rest of the smokers. How delightful…

You’re pretty much a smoker now. All it takes is openly smoking in front of the most respected member of your family and you’re done.

There it is then; the treacherous journey from non-smoker to smoker, with the perils of being a casual smoker laid bare.

I hope by reading this you realise that smoking is like playing with fire both literally and metaphorically, only with the added effect of making you a pyromaniac after just a few flirtations.

Now you can’t say you haven’t been warned, kids.

The Hangover Part II mini-review

The weight of expectation often lays heavy on sequels. Especially when they get caught up in the media-hype machine and become billed as the greatest movie of all time.

The follow-up to the comedic revelation The Hangover was never going to be any different.

The main cast-members, Messrs Cooper, Galfiniakis, Helms and Bartha, agreed to bring The Wolfpack back, this time for Stu’s wedding. Bangkok seemed the perfect choice to replace Las Vegas as the setting, which was pivotal in the success of the first film. And so the trailers went to work to create a huge deal of excitement for the impending release of director Todd Phillip’s second bash at the morning-after-the-night-before.

It looked just like the first film, only better.

But, sadly, in reality it is only just like the first film.

Yes, all of the elements that made The Hangover great are in The Hangover Part II. The problem is that ALL of the elements that made The Hangover great are in The Hangover Part II – from Allan making a defenceless, innocent person (and now an animal too) perform a mock-sexual act, to Stu’s impromptu song of pessimism.

In spite of the terrible lack if originality in it, to say that the second Hangover is as bad as a hangover would not only be really cheesy, it would also be a lie. It is extremely funny in parts. It retains the chaotic charm of the original too. As a standalone movie, it is still better than many comedies.

But sequels can never, and should never, be thought of for too long without comparison to the other film(s) in the series.

A sequel is supposed to be a vast improvement on its predecessor. Failing that, it should at least take the series in a different direction and cover new ground. Ideally it will do both – the former as a result of the latter.

Think of the best sequels you have seen and consider if the creator of it simply took the blueprint from the first film and created what is almost a carbon copy. Imagine if The Dark Knight was Batman Begins with a different villain. Imagine if The Godfather II didn’t have the flashbacks to Vito Corleone’s past. And just imagine if Arnie was still out to kill John Connor in Terminator 2.

Then think of how similar Transformers 2 was to Transformers and how disappointing it was as a result.

The Hangover II does not embrace change in the way the most successful sequels do. It is funny, but it is lazy and could have been so much more.

***

PES 2011 review

To win hearts, minds and market share, PES 2011 has to beat FIFA’s exemplar gameplay, licenses, commentary and online performance. Not an easy task.

PES 2011's improved player physics make holding up the ball much more realistic.

In terms of gameplay, Konami has quite obviously adopted an ‘if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em’ attitude for this season’s PES. The tricks and flicks in the new dribbling system are almost a carbon copy of those FIFA fans will be familiar with, and the general movement is also similar. With these additions you will no longer be a one trick pony and can really feel the weight of the players as you guide them around the pitch – even more so as they get tired towards the end of the game. Sadly though, the new system takes a long time to get used to and can feel sluggish.

The power bar allows for pin-point accuracy typical of the world's best players.

The passing system has been completely revamped too. With a power gauge for every pass, you have a great deal more control over the ball. However, you don’t have complete freedom because passes are often restricted to linear paths. Sometimes this helps and sometimes it hinders. So, similar to the dribbling, the passing on PES 2011 takes getting used to, but, when you have given the game time and the penny drops, it feels very rewarding.

Other rewards are immediately available to the budding Jose Mourinhos out there. The depth to the tactics on PES is far superior to FIFA. A lot of thought has to go into them as well; a 1-0 lead will be pegged back as quickly as it appears if you do not protect that defence from a resurgent opponent.

Although Konami has made great strides in improving the gameplay of PES, gamers are often hung-up about the superficial elements of the series that detract from the escapism it offers; the lack of licensed teams and players usually being the main grievance. Those players will be pleased to know that PES 2011 offers improvement on this front, with the addition of the Copa Santander Libertadores and the UEFA Super Cup. But, being as though the latter is just one game and the former is a Central and South American competition the majority of Europhilic players will be uninterested in, those improvements are simply not enough.

Commentary has improved insofar as Mark Lawrenson has been given the heave-ho, replaced by the much less annoying Jim Beglin, and John Champion now says things about the teams on the field. But that is it. So, yes, the commentary is still disappointing. As is the stadium atmosphere, which offers only a couple of chants for licensed teams that quickly become aggravating.

While obvious flaws are apparent in the game, Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 is a definite improvement for Konami’s well-loved series. It offers a realistic and engrossing experience of football. But it is still the inferior football game this year.

9/10

PES 2011 is out now. But so is FIFA 11.

Welcome

Hello everyone and welcome to my new blogging site. Having heard that WordPress was a better host for blogs, I thought I would check it out. And I was pleased to find out that it is much more hospitable than my previous hosts, Blogger. Hence the move.

I am currently doing an unpaid internship at a publication called CF Magazine in Digbeth, Birmingham. The magazine hasn’t actually launched yet but we’re hoping to get all the content wrapped up and advertising in ready for an early April release. I am looking after the game and film sections, as well as a news section that is loosely called ‘The Month’.

The internship is part of an initiative being piloted in the West Midlands to get graduates into the trade that they are qualified in. If and when we get the first issue published, it should look good on my CV and the experience at a magazine will hopefully help me get a job. Although it is unpaid like I said, I am entitled to receive Jobseeker’s Allowance. So, I am officially Joell the mole on the dole.

I hope this brief description of what I have been up to helps to explain why I haven’t posted a blog for an extremely long time. I will be a very busy bee in the foreseeable future, not only with work but also searching for a paid job in the media. I do plan on writing more blogs to build up my portfolio though. I may even write one tomorrow as contributing to my portfolio and getting it out there is part of my agreement with the Job Centre.

If you have any suggestions for me, whether it be for myself, my blogs or even for my sections of CF Magazine, do not be afraid to shout them at me so loud that my ears ring for a couple of days.