Monday, May 5, 2008

Sundays Should Not Be So Busy

To relax, come visit Van Peebles Land with me!
by Charlie Leck

Sunday was a bit of a frantic day. The woman of the house broke her arm recently in a silly horse accident. A leather strap broke, horse bolted, woman hit ground, wrist snapped, surgery followed, followed by instructions to do little. I must often act as her second arm now, do more dishes, laundry and bed making. Then, yesterday, guests came for dinner. I'm okay at cooking for two but generally snap under the pressure of cooking for others.

It was finally the quiet of the morning that began to settle me and it was my chance to check in at Van Peebles Land, one of my favorite blogs, to see if David Williamson had been writing. It was a pleasure to see that he had. David is a very diverse guy with broad ranging interests. I recommend him to you all. And, without his permission, I reprint his entire blog from this past Thursday. Read his quiet sensibleness. I've edited nothing.

I'll go see how Madam One-Arm is doing.

THURSDAY, MAY 01, 2008

Political football

Seventy years ago yesterday the first televised FA Cup Final took place when Huddersfield Town faced Preston North End.

It would be another 30 years before the final would be broadcast in colour, but anyone who watched the flickering images of footballers was pulled into the drama of the beautiful game.

Television is a medium designed for football. Drama is best watched on the stage of a theatre or a cinema screen, and music should be heard live or through superior headphones. But the act of watching a match on a small screen is a tribal rite of global power.

Television never seems as "live" as when teams dash onto the pitch. Whether someone is watching in Wembley, Soweto or Beijing, he or she is united in not knowing what is going to happen next.

In an age when movies are formulaic and sodden with computer-generated imagery, and "reality" TV is manipulated by canny and callous producers, the rawness of the football event is all the more compelling.

Everyone in the world who sits, stands, quakes or hollers in front of a screen tuned to a match will watch 90 minutes of truth.

The players may be rendered the same size as Subbuteo figures, but this hardly matters – in some ways it is almost an improvement. This is a game in which the orchestration of the team is a work of choreography best observed from above.

Chess enthusiasts are not excited by the carving of the pieces; instead, they are animated by the ruthless strategy that pushes each one across the board.

The weaving of no less lethal traps on the football pitch can be seen with mesmeric clarity on a television screen. In pubs and waiting rooms, bedrooms and on big screens, everything can is visible and yet nothing is certain.

Elections, like today's which will determine the make-up of every council in Wales and decide who is London's Mayor, carry a similar rush of excitement.

When you meet your neighbour at the polling station, even if you have voted for different parties, you have done the same thing. This is an increasingly rare, even precious, experience in a diverse society.

In the United States, politics is now marketed as a sport. Conservatives and liberals have slanderous slogans to shout at each other and debates are covered with sensation suitable for a Superbowl.

But it is the simplicity of football, devoid of ice-skates, helmets and racquets, which provides its near universal charm. And the quiet politics of a council election has a similar majesty.

Men and women are asked to enter a polling booth and do something so radical it seems both a privilege and a scandal; we are trusted to make up our minds.

Nobody knows what the result will be, but colossal change can happen because of individual decisions. This isn't chaos theory, it's democracy; and it's not a game, but it is beautiful.

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