Stetsons, Bootlace Ties, Waistcoats and Six Shooters

At a time when my child sits down to watch evermore improbable alien / human action cartoons I find myself recalling the Saturday morning films and the TV shows that were part of my life as a child.  They were dominated by the Western films and TV series.   The likes of Laramie, Bonanza, High Chapparal and Rawhide come to mind along with The Lone Ranger.  But also films like Gunfight at OK Corral, Destry Rides Again and High Noon.   None of these, and especially those in black and white, appear on mainstream TV now.   The Western film seems to have become a weekday mid-afternoon treat for those who are able to sit down for a couple of hours at that time – clearly a cheap way of filling spare time slots for TV programmers devoid of cash and ideas.

This is such a waste of some classic films containing good action with simple enjoyable storylines that usually provided the eventual good triumphing over evil conclusion that goes down well in the auditorium and has provided the basics for more recent films – many of which are no longer earthbound.    Some are absolute classics of cinema – forgotten in the midst of the current computer generated special effects and 3D era.   Where is that hero in the white hat standing tall on a dusty street against the bad guys?

If you want to watch classic Westerns (and probably some other genre as well) you’ll have to invest in the DVD or Blu Ray from the store.   Whilst I enjoy the gritty Clint Eastwood ‘Spaghetti Western’ films of the 1970s with their harsh sun, brutal beatings and showdowns with no obvious hero, I love to go back to the classics like Rio Bravo where Dean Martin took time out from being a drunk to play a drunk – or so his reputation leads me to suspect.  John Wayne stands tall in the saddle in that film and others amongst a host of other actors who brought the set to life with often more than a touch of humour – James Caan providing a great foil in El Dorado as the unwanted travel companion.   In the same film Robert Mitchum took time out from being a gumshoe and us sailor to reprise Martin’s drunk and played it with superbly humorous effect.   The comedy was further enhanced by Bull (Arthur Hunnicut) who’s frontiersman appearance and bugle blowing combined with the claim to being an ‘Injun Hunter’ provided the framework for a heart warming performance.

Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas fought a battle against the odds at the OK Corral with none other than Dr Leonard McCoy at their side dealing death rather than healing in this early appearance for DeForest Kelly as Morgan Earp.  Douglas’ coughing fits as the dying Doc Holiday punctuate a story of two men who really shouldn’t be working together but have little choice as the cards of fate are stacked in such a way as to draw them inexorably towards their date with destiny.   There’s something about the music to this film as well that captures my imagination and recurs in my mind on sleepless nights (alongside some favourite rock tracks).    Written by Dimitri  Tiomkin, it has a slightly Cossack feel and there is something chilling about its ‘Boot Hill, Boot Hill, So cold, So Still’ intonation.

The hero always wears a white hat is a fallacy that is blown away in High Noon.   This excellent black and white film is barely longer than the period of time it depicts.   Gary Cooper walks tall in a pinstriped waistcoat and trousers whilst wearing a black hat.   In the harsh light of the small western town under the midday sun his is a brooding presence as his former friends and supporters desert him.  The details in the faces of the characters of the film are vividly brought to life in this excellent black & white.   The stubble, the beads of sweat and the lines on the faces are superbly caught by the sharp camerawork in a manner that many colour films fail to achieve and this adds to the tension as the film drives on to its conclusion. In the final showdown with a gang of killers is he really a hero?  I’m not sure – there’s certainly no heroic face to face gunfight as he runs in desparation from one form of cover to another.   Perhaps he is the fore-runner of the man with no name, an anti-hero who just happens to be less evil than the truly bad guys?

Finally, a thought for the bad guys – it’s amazing how many people regularly appeared as baddies in one western after another.  You get to recognise them as they fill in as extras for the heroes to gun down time after time.   One who crossed the line from hero-fodder to lead actor was Lee Van Cleef – appearing in High Noon and Gunfight at the Ok Corral as an expendable bad man he starred in For a Few dollars More and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly where he was as much a hero as Eastwood’s Character – nasty but with redeeming features.

Westerns are still made though with much less regularity than when I was a child.   Watching some of the classics may give you an idea of what the genre was really about.   Many recent westerns follow the modern trend of remaking old classics – the 2007 3:10 to Yuma is an example reprising the 1957 original.  It’s good in the same way as the remake of Assault on Precinct 13 is good – i.e. ok on the violence but lacking the tension of the original.  Go and view the old Westerns and enjoy the cinema that they provide 🙂

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To Give Or Not To Give, That Is The Question…

The Rules of Association Football consistently cause consternation for fans as they witness so many different interpretations of them by referees.   One of the most contentious areas of interpretation is the awarding of penalties when the last defender brings down the on-rushing forward in the box.   How many times do we fans witness an obvious infringement in the area that draws an inconsistent response from the referee?  The rules seem clear: –

A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any

of the following seven offences in a manner considered by the referee to be

careless, reckless or using excessive force:

• kicks or attempts to kick an opponent

• trips or attempts to trip an opponent

• jumps at an opponent

• charges an opponent

• strikes or attempts to strike an opponent

• pushes an opponent

• tackles an opponent

A direct free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any

of the following three offences:

• holds an opponent

• spits at an opponent

• handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own

penalty area)

A direct free kick is taken from the place where the offence occurred

(see Law 13 – Position of free kick).

Penalty kick

A penalty kick is awarded if any of the above ten offences is committed by

a player inside his own penalty area, irrespective of the position of the ball,

provided it is in play.

Sending-off offences

A player, substitute or substituted player is sent off if he commits any of the

following seven offences:

• serious foul play

• violent conduct

• spitting at an opponent or any other person

• denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity

by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper within

his own penalty area)

• denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity to an opponent moving

towards the player’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or a

penalty kick

• using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures

• receiving a second caution in the same match

Ok, so not that clear! – that’s quite a lot to bear in mind isn’t it when chasing after 22 players and a spheroid across a patch of grass located on a very much larger oblate spheroid.   The salient points seem to be ‘trips or attempts to trip an opponent’, ‘holds an opponent’ and ‘denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick’.  So, from the recent experience of the London Senior Cup Final, Wingate & Finchley Fans might reasonably have expected the Hendon defender to be sent off and a penalty awarded for the fouls on our striker – there was holding and tripping in the area and he was through on goal.   Yet the referee gave nothing and waved play on.   So surely, if he didn’t see it as a foul (the only possible conclusion from his play-on indication), he should have been cautioning our player for diving under the ‘unsporting behaviour’ part of the rules?

Holding & Tripping

Holding & Tripping in the Area

These are the sort of decisions that leave fans (and players) perplexed and sometimes downright angry – it can change the course of a match.

But that’s not the only issue with the penalty decision choices that referees make.   The commonest and most controversial is the penalty given but no card for the offender.   Clearly from the laws of the game above, if the referee has given a penalty and the player against whom it is given is the ‘last defender’ then it should be a red card.   Yet referees consistently give penalties with either no card or a yellow card.   Presumably, in the case of the Yellow Card they have determined that there was no goal scoring opportunity – perhaps subconsciously applying an inappropriate version of the off-side rule?   Where no card is given at all…?  Well, I can’t see how that is possibly supported by the rules of the game!

So there we have the example of inconsistency.   It seems that there is a debate going on in the background amongst the referees (and I’d like to ask one that I know) about the rights and wrongs of the rules as they stand.   Some ref’s appear to favour an approach that awarding a penalty is correct and that is enough for the offence where perhaps it was for pushing, ramping up to a card for the more unacceptable offences like holding / tripping.    Others will apply the full weight of the law and send off the offender as well as awarding the penalty.  These differing approaches are very much an interpretation of the rules rather than the application of them.   I suspect that a number of referees believe that they should be allowed discretion in this area as a penalty and a red card runs contrary to the double jeopardy concept of the British Judicial system – giving the penalty is punishment enough, adding a sending off punishes the player’s team twice for the same offence.   Like I say, I’d love to know if that debate is going on in referee’s circles.  If it is, perhaps the fans and players should also be part of the debate 😉

However, there is a further complication.  It sometimes seems that the importance of the match and the time within the game also play a part in referees decisions.   Fans will tell you (and this has definitely not been a result of a scientific study) that: –

  • Penalties with a red card do not happen early in important matches regardless of the offence.
  • Ditto late in the second half of important matches unless it might even up a match.
  • Never in extra time – though a penalty may be awarded to even things up.

In other words, referees are influencing the outcome of the game by trying NOT to influence the outcome of the game 😦   Now surely, that isn’t right?   To Give Or Not To Give….   Over to you Ref!

p.s.  And how often do we fans shout for the ultimate sanction when it’s the opposition whilst claiming it wasn’t a foul for our own defence – no consistency from us either is there?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Morning (couldn’t resist a third go!)

The Gates Of The Morning

Jogger In Victoria Park

Jogger In Victoria Park