Tuesday, 22 April 2014

World Cup Red Card Cards


If I'm honest, I think I only watch the World Cup for the dismissals. International football's biggest tournament has a way of elevating everything it touches. There have been countless better goals than Diego Maradona's second against England, but the combination of place, time and significance means that it looks set to remain as THE goal. Likewise, there's no indisipline quite like World Cup indiscipline. People rightly argue that it is a shame that George Best or Ryan Giggs never got the opportunity to grace the World Cup stage, but I feel just as much of a sense of loss for Pat Van den Hauwe or Vinny Jones. Paul Scholes played at two World Cups, but I always got the impression that he never meant to be that bad at tackling. He was never a true artist in the same way as Julian Dicks or Vinny Samways.

To celebrate this finest of the fine football arts, in association with Twohundredpercent I have designed a range of 25 collectible World Cup Red Card Cards, available as greetings cards or postcards. Now other fans of ill-discipline can assemble their very own treasury of the most notable World Cup moments and relive their very favourite wild fouls and outrageous pieces of referee-deceiving fakery. It's sure to bring football into disrepute and the first batch off the shelf will be no doubt heading to FIFA headquarters and the office of Mr. J. Blatter.

FIFA, of course, are continually trying to clamp down on such foul play, potty mouth and various other monkeyshines. However, for the committed fan of the red card, these efforts are nothing but good news. Their chosen method to bring transgressors back into line is to encourage the referees to pop the cards out until they learn, as though they are misbehaving dogs. The only worry red card connoisseurs have is that one day they might, along similar lines, try to reverse the trend and instead reward players who toe the line. Referees taking to the field with a string of sausages or a pocket full of Haribo instead of a notebook and pencil remains my worst nightmare.


159 players have been dismissed in the nineteen World Cup Finals tournaments so far, to 157 different miscreants. Cameroon's Rigobert Song and France's kung-fu master Zinedine Zidane are the only repeat offenders, while Argentina's Leandro Cufré is the only player to be given his marching orders without having set foot on the field of play. 159 in 772 matches equates to a rather meek-looking 0.21 dismissals per match. However, it is a rather misleading statistic, because it is becoming far more prevalent. In the first nine World Cups, just 22 players were invited to leave the field early. In both 1950 and 1970, no-one was sent off at all. The latter of those tournaments was significant as it was also the first World Cup since yellow and red cards were introduced to international football and although the red card didn't make an appearance until four years later, it has since been shown 137 times.

This equates to a rate of 0.25 red cards per World Cup match, or one every four games. In the last three tournaments, this has risen to one every three. Since three games is the minimum number that any team who qualifies for the Finals can play, you are now statistically more likely to have a player sent off than not. If you go further than the group stage and still don't have any players dismissed, you're simply not trying. Days like 18th June 1998, where five players were sent off in a single round of group matches (Denmark v. South Africa and France v. Saudi Arabia) or 25th June 2006, the day of the second round match between the Netherlands and Portugal in which 16 players were booked and 4 sent off are starting to look less like aberrations and more like the norm.

All of which is great news for me, until you remember that whilst dismissals are trending unrelentingly upward, goals-per-game are falling fast. Just as fast as dismissals are rising, in fact, or moreso. At the current rate, by the 2142 World Cup at the very latest we can expect more red cards than goals in each and every World Cup game. I drew a graph and everything, so this is definitely going to happen.


I mentioned my rigorous researches on Twitter and Terry Duffelen, Fußball correspondent on Twohundredpercent and eminent football podcaster, remarked, "red card coefficients are the future of football", a thought which was the perfect combination of funny and bottom-clenchingly terrifying. Because if red cards are to become the game's new currency, we can expect teams going through elaborate simulation in order to prevent their opponents getting sent for an early bath. And while their own tackling would reach new heights of ferocious overkill, the players on the receiving end would react with such Gandhi-like equanimity and calmness that the referee won't know what to think. No-one would get sent off at all. Combine that with there being no goals either and every World Cup game would essentially be like watching Brighton and Hove Albion: you're slightly drunk, it's raining, nothing is happening on the pitch and you don't know where you're supposed to sit.

The only way to prevent this ludicrous situation from occurring is to send everybody off before the game has even started. This is something I'm sure we can all get behind.

It's not just Red Card Cards that are available via my Redbubble, there are loads of other cards, prints and items of clothing to be had. Or you can just go and look at the silly pictures: dotmund on Redbubble

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

My mates were on the telly

My mates were on the telly last night. This shouldn't be exciting any more. It's 2014, for a start. Nowadays, anyone can be famous if they want to be, and entirely on their own terms. Beauty and lifestyle vloggers from YouTube are now so pulsatingly popular that a public appearance has been known to bring Covent Garden to a standstill. Being on the telly shouldn't still be such a big deal.

My mates, who were on the telly last night

Another reason why my mates being on the telly shouldn't excite me any more is because it's 2014 and this means that I should be old enough to know better. The day before my mates were on the telly (which was last night) was my 34th birthday. I am old. And wizened. Bits of me hurt and other parts smell and I can never quite guarantee which bits are going to fall into which category. I am older now, in fact, than Pete was when I first met him. Pete is one of my mates (who were on the telly last night).

But guess what? Your mates being on the telly is still exciting. Thrillingly so.

We decamped to their local boozer in Hove for the hottest premiere that Sussex has seen since the Norman Invasion to watch. Any locals hoping to watch the Arsenal -West Ham Premier League match were squirrelled away in a room upstairs so as not to bother the people who were watching a televised gardening contest. But no matter, the atmosphere we all created was just as giddy as any communal pub football-watching experience of my life and far more good-natured. Opposing contestants were booed like pantomime villains, and when our heroes prevailed and won the preserves making test at the end, the roof came off. All told, having the gardening on instead of the football may appear to be a bold shift in conventional pub dynamics, but it was an unreservedly successful one. If nothing else, there was a buffet.

Next week my mates will be on the telly again. I'm not sure how I'll cope not watching it in a pub. For a start I won't know when to cheer. I'll probably have to make up all my own chants, too.

Your mates being on the telly is still exciting. However, it's not quite the same as it would have been in the past, because Tim Berners-Lee invented the internet and the internet has allowed the invention of Twitter. Twitter is an instant feedback sluice, a ceaselessly-flowing pipe of data and opinions, thoughts and feelings. Put another way, it's a shitfunnel, and this shitfunnel is going off in your face. Trepidatiously, I began to explore what other people were making of my mates being on the telly last night.

As I have mentioned before, I am now old. Old enough, at least, to not be surprised by people. And I've been on and around the internet for over a decade, so pretty much nothing shocks or offends me any more. So imagine my surprise when this was the very first tweet I saw on the subject:

hashtag: ponces

I wasn't surprised that people didn't like them per se, as we all know that not everyone is going to like you or like your friends. Also, television programmes are by their very nature never the whole picture. They are edited and re-ordered to fit a third party's view of what the narrative should be, with one eye always squarely on entertainment. Someone who doesn't like what they see of you on TV may be pleasantly surprised if they had to deal with you in real time.

I also wasn't surprised that someone who didn't like something had said so on Twitter. It is, after all, a shitfunnel and it's going off in your face. No, what surprised me is that I actually bristled. I bristled! How dare someone I don't know not like my mates (who were on the telly last night). He doesn't even know them! How can you dismiss someone without knowing all the facts?

Oh god, what was I doing?

Against my better judgement, I took another handful of blood pressure tablets and yomped in yet further. Predictably, there were just as many nice comments as nasty ones. Naturally, I found myself agreeing with these and growing increasingly convinced that the people tweeting them and I could grow to be firm friends.

This is, as far as I am concerned, the only rational response any human being could have had

Meanwhile, Lincoln WI approve. Summer Fetes in Spalding may have special guest jam judges this year

I think the positive comments very much outweighed the negatives in the end and so my researches were, on balance, a nice thing to do. My mates were on the telly last night but now they also represent many things to many people. They are everyman heroes, tweed-wearers of the year, nascent gay icons and the beards that just won't quit.

The only one of these things which started to niggle me, in fact, was the use of the word "hipster". "Hipster gardeners", "fashionably-bearded" and "hipster ponces" are all terms I have seen used. As I see it, "hipster" is just the fashionable term for people who try and be fashionable. Being fashionable is a reactive process, whereas Gary and Pete are proactive people. They don't look or dress like they do out of any notion of kowtowing to current trends. They are bringing sexy back on their own terms. Or, to put it another way, they're both too old to be hipsters. A hipster in their 40s would be a pathetic sight, and I think it's impossible to argue that either of our heroes is a pathetic individual. If nothing else, they kicked all your arses up and down that jam tent. Their bouquet was under-rated, too. Renaissance men. Upstanding men. Real men. There's no artifice or pretension there. So bloody shut up with the "hipster" thing, you idiots.

God.

I mean, I might be biased. Next week I will probably be watching the show on my own with Twitter open and I can't guarantee that I won't wade in to any number of futile internet arguments. If this experience has taught me anything, it's that I've learnt nothing and can't be trusted to be rational when there are Feelings floating about. Now, disclaimers out of the way, I'm off to find some more proper, constructive appraisals of last night's show.

It's possible, but they'd only be their own bits that they'd severed by mistake

This is the sort of unnerved feeling you get just before you realise it is, in fact, lust

If you would like to know or see more (and by the way, you definitely do and should) then you can follow my mates (who were on telly last night) on Twitter here: @vegetablismuk, like their Facebook page here: Vegetablism or read their website here: Vegetablism.co.uk. You can also watch them being on TV thanks to the wise owls at the BBC who invented the iPlayer: The Big Allotment Challenge episode 1

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Spring clean 2014

Hello again. You are hopefully now aware of my Redbubble page, a growing online portfolio of my work that can also be bought as t-shirts, cards and prints. However, now is a good time to remind you about my Etsy store. Here you can buy original artwork and signed prints, for that much more unique and personal touch.

*touch touch*

However, my Etsy store has been a bit stagnant lately. What I really want to do is to clear out some of the old artworks to make room for some shiny new ones. So, here's the deal.

On February 18th 2014, the majority of the listings on my Etsy store will expire and I have decided that I will not be renewing them. Instead they will gradually be replaced by new original work for people to gawp at in wonder and, hopefully, buy. So this is the last opportunity to get your hands on the existing stuff! To sweeten the deal, I've created two coupon codes for readers of this blog to get discounts on any stuff they buy.

At checkout, simply enter SPRING14 for 15% off any orders between £10-£49.99, or SPRING1425 for 25% off any order of £50 or more.

Please have a look and pass this link around. Let's try and find some of these things a nice home. Remember, these are all originals, one-offs and once they're gone, they're gone.

Brighton seaside painting, £20

Extendable 2 canvas giraffe painting, £100

Rhinole painting, £20

Sussex seaside painting, £40

There are also two signed prints still for sale, 2 of each design:

Over-familiar tigers A3 print, £10

Slothbusters A3 print, £10

Thursday, 9 January 2014

New for 2014: gallery and shop

Oh, hello there. Thanks for dropping by.

As an artist of some (no) international renown, I have recently become aware of the website Redbubble and I think that it is smashing. Redbubble is what artists everywhere have been crying out for, really. It's a community where the huddled, drunken and embittered people like me can meet, it's an online gallery and portfolio and on top of that, they turn your fevered imaginings into products that people can buy. This is so complete as a thing that I needed that I'm not entirely convinced that this isn't all a dream.



Let's assume that it isn't, for the time being. Over the past few days I have been assembling my bits and bobs into a portfolio on my very own Redbubble page. There are things there that you can buy as large prints, posters, framed prints and greetings cards. I will be adding more and more throughout the year. I am currently trying to work my serial killer pictures into some sort of cohesive single product that you can stick on your wall and scare the neighbours, for example.

Also available are t-shirts and hooded tops, guaranteed to make you look irresistible to the opposite sex and randy dogs alike. These feature some older designs and also some new stuff that I have created just for the occasion. Such as this one:


But hey, enough of my yakkin'. Please do have a look at my Redbubble page and also my store. If it moves you sufficiently, you could also tell your friends, colleagues and bitterest, bitterest foes. Don't forget to check back there regularly to see what I've been up to with a pencil, paper, a dream and my tongue sticking out of my mouth because I am concentrating hard.

Gallery: http://www.redbubble.com/people/dotmund/portfolio
Store: http://www.redbubble.com/people/dotmund/shop

Friday, 3 January 2014

Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher, seven-times World Motor Racing champion, is 45 years old today. However, this morning he remains in a medically-induced coma after a skiing accident in France.

Schumacher's standing as statistically the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time has been endlessly dealt with elsewhere. In fact, many of these records owe themselves to the seasons where, in an utterly dominant Ferrari car, he won as he pleased. 2001 saw him win 9 times and in the following year he added eleven more victories, never finishing lower than third place. A tighter championship in 2003 (a season where the powers-that-be had amended the World Championship scoring system to try and slow his progress) still yielded six wins on the way to a record-breaking sixth world title. The 2004 World Championship, meanwhile, was his zenith, winning 13 times from 18 Grands Prix with eight pole positions and ten fastest laps. Out of a possible 180 points, he scored 148.

However, unlike the current situation with Sebastian Vettel -where naysayers continually ask how much of his success is down solely to the brilliance of his car - no-one casts aspersions about the value of Schumacher's numbers. If they seem unrelentingly high then it is only because they were deservedly so; Ferrari were a team in disarray when Schumacher joined them in 1996. The fact that he spent the early part of the 21st Century monotonously chalking up successes is solely a result of his own work building a team who were able to deliver them and who were continually inspired to want more. This much said, Schumacher's genius was never better displayed than in the four years between joining the Scuderia and his first World Championship with them - and third overall - in 2000.

There was the dancing, balletic win in the streaming wet 1996 Spanish Grand Prix where he made everyone else look like they were driving Formula 3000 cars, in spite of his own vehicle having the majority of the handling attributes of a truck. Or his win the same year at Spa-Francorchamps in the Belgian Grand Prix where, having qualified over a second slower than Jacques Villeneuve's dominant Williams in the damp, he doggedly prevailed in the dry on race day. How about Monaco in 1997, where he was leading by 6 seconds after the first waterlogged 2 mile lap? Or Belgium, streaking through the field in the wet? Or his electrifying win in Hungary in 1998 where he overcame the faster McLaren cars of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard by being able to deliver the performance required of Ross Brawn's impossible tactical gamble?

There were questions - questions that very often unsatisfactory or even disturbing conclusions - about his standards of on-track sportsmanship and racing ethics. Off the circuit, there was also little doubt that he lacked the charisma of the driver he succeeded as the leader of the F1 pack, Ayrton Senna. It was the latter's death at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix that thrust Michael Schumacher to the top of the pile. His first World Championship, that same year, was a bit of a hodge-podge of an affair. Suspensions, suspicions, accusations of illegality that dogged his Benetton team and the final race collision with his title rival Damon Hill all gave a strong impression that the right man had won but in the wrong way.

A dominant 1995 season, however, confirmed what most of us already knew - rather than just being the best of the rest, Schumacher was coming to hold his place in the sport's pantheon in his own right. By the time he won the first of his 72 wins for Ferrari (bear in mind that the highest career total of victories after Schumacher is Alain Prost's 51) at the following year's streaming wet Spanish Grand Prix, it was clear that there was very little to choose in raw talent between Schumacher and the brilliant Brazilian whose shoes he'd had to step up to fill. Whilst I would hesitate in calling Michael Schumacher one of the all-time greats, any list of the best racing drivers of all time which does not have Schumacher towards, if not at, the very top isn't worth a brass farthing.

Because like all people who are the very best at what they do, Michael Schumacher took what he did and changed it. In Michael Schumacher's era, to be less fit, or less dedicated, or less tactically astute, or less politically savvy as a racing driver meant that you would at best finish second. To manage to get up to his level was in itself no guarantee, as by that point Schumacher would most likely have tirelessly moved onward and upward to a higher plane. Even after his retirement, the standards he set have remained the norm. The modern-day Grand Prix driver is his legacy.

He was a brilliant racing driver, the best of the best and a man whose achievements have cast a long shadow on a significant part of life thus far. It's hard to accept that his 46th year begins in such a vulnerable position, hovering between life and death, when it was the sheer gravity of his presence in the sporting arena that meant that most of my formative years were consumed with loving, hating, supporting or opposing him in some way.

But admiring. Always admiring. Happy birthday, Michael. Get well soon.

Michael Schumacher by numbers

Grand Prix entries 308
Grand Prix starts 307
Grand Prix wins 91 (record)
Podium finishes 155 (record)
Career points 1566
Pole positions 68 (record)
Fastest laps 77 (record)

Formula 1 World Champion 1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004. (record)

Grand Prix wins: 1992 Belgian GP; 1993 Portuguese GP; 1994 Brazilian GP, Pacific GP, San Marino GP, Monaco GP, Canadian GP, French GP, Hungarian GP, European GP; 1995 Brazilian GP, Spanish GP, Monaco GP, French GP, German GP, Belgian GP, European GP, Pacific GP, Japanese GP; 1996 Spanish GP, Belgian GP, Italian GP; 1997 Monaco GP, Canadian GP, French GP, Belgian GP, Japanese GP; 1998 Argentinean GP, Canadian GP, French GP, British GP, Hungarian GP, Italian GP; 1999 San Marino GP, Monaco GP; 2000 Australian GP, Brazilian GP, San Marino GP, EuropeanGP, Canadian GP, Italian GP, United States GP, Japanese GP, Malaysian GP; 2001 Australian GP, Malaysian GP, Spanish GP, Monaco GP, European GP, French GP, Hungarian GP, Belgian GP, Japanese GP; 2002 Australian GP, Brazilian GP, San Marino GP, Spanish GP, Austrian GP, Canadian GP, British GP, French GP, German GP, Belgian GP, Japanese GP; 2003 San Marino GP, Spanish GP, Austrian GP, Canadian GP, Italian GP, United States GP; 2004 Australian GP, Malaysian GP, Bahrain GP, San Marino GP, Spanish GP, European GP, Canadian GP, United States GP, French GP, British GP, Hungarian GP, German GP, Japanese GP; 2005 United States GP; 2006 San Marino GP, European GP, United States GP, French GP, German GP, Italian GP, Chinese GP.

Michael Schumacher's other all-time Formula 1 records:

Most consecutive World Championships 5 (2000-2004)
Most wins in a season 13 (2004, tied with Sebastian Vettel (2013))
Most front row starts 116
Most perfect races (win, pole and fastest lap) 22
Most consecutive podium finishes 19 (2001-2002)
Most wins in a single Grand Prix 8 (French Grand Prix (1994-95, 1997-98, 2001-02, 2004 and 2006)
Most wins for a single team 72 (Ferrari, 1996-2006) (Michael Schumacher is also the only driver in Formula 1 history to have won multiple World Championship titles with two separate Constructors)
Most points in a season (10 points for a win) 148 (2004)
Highest championship winning margin (10 points for a win) 67 points (2002)

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