Steve Stone - top 100 Kindle bestselling author, 8-ball pool shark, former snooker club owner, poker player, 24-handicap golfer, walker and traveller, expert IT project manager, economist, statistician, and now.... BLOGGER! Discover my 'Intrepid' series of time travel adventure novels - and in between, get my take on the issues of today, tomorrow and yesteryear....
This looks just like any ordinary house, doesn’t it?
But it’s not an ordinary house. Not at all. This is the Brighton
house of painter and decorator Robert W. Burns. On the outside, it seems like
any other dwelling, but on the inside, it’s been transformed into an incredible
art gallery, a shrine to and celebration of Renaissance art, containing
wonderful reproductions of classic works from centuries gone by; portraits,
wall frescos, lunettes and friezes alike. This picture book is packed with them.
Just turn the pages - you won’t believe your eyes. The house also
contains original Renaissance-style portraits of Russell Brand and Wayne
As featured by BBC’s ‘The One Show’, ABC, Channel 9 Australia and
AFP. Certain images are from Robert W. Burns, others included by kind
permission of legendary international photographer Facundo Arrizabalaga. Check it out on Amazon; Amazon USA Amazon UK
It wasn't too long ago, that people talked about British cycling Team Sky with a little smile on their face, not really believing the team could achieve very much. But today, Sky rider Bradley Wiggins made history, by becoming the first British cycle rider ever to win the Tour de France, the greatest all-round cycle race in the world. And his teammate Chris Froome finished second, to make it a British one-two. In many ways, it's all a bit of a fairy tale - who would ever have thought that 4km pursuit specialist Bradley could successfully convert to the long distances and mountains of the Tour?
I've been following the Tour de France since the 1970's, and remember great riders like Miguel Indurain and Lance Armstrong. Generally, the Tour has been the province of mainland European riders, and I never thought that I would live to see a British rider win. It really was a great team effort throughout, Bradley's teammates helping him through the Alps and the Pyrenees, after he gained an advantage in an early time trial. The result is clearly also a tribute to great planning, preparation, management and support work behind the scenes. I bet the team clears the board, in the London Olympics as well.
So well done to Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky. You put a smile on my face today, and made me proud to be British. Perhaps Andy Murray and the England football team can learn lessons, from the contribution that long-term organisation and tactics made to this victory. Well done also to the British Eurosport team, who made the three weeks of the Tour a pleasure to watch.
Why is it that the England football team often struggles against quality opposition?
I honestly don't think it's the players. At Euro 2012, all of Roy Hodgson's regulars were world class, or of an international standard. Before I tell you what's wrong with the England team, here are my player ratings for the 0-0 draw against Italy, after which England went out of the tournament on a penalty shootout;
Hart 6. Generally protected well by the defence. A few good-ish saves.
Johnson 6. Defended well, with some good forward runs, but surrendered possession too often.
Cole 6. Defended well, didn't make much impression down the wing.
Terry 8. Again marshalled the defence with aplomb. Two crucial interceptions.
Lescott 7. Continued to impress, probably did as well as Rio Ferdinand would have done.
Gerrard 7. Good ball distribution first half, but looked tired after that, and occasionally gave away possession.
Parker 6. Continues to surprise, whilst deputising for Frank Lampard.
Young 5. A bit quiet again. Sometimes surrendered possession unnecessarily, and missed the crucial penalty.
Welbeck 5. Occasional good defensive support, but failed to get into the game.
Rooney 6. Fit, but not match-fit. Good level of effort, but often struggled.
Milner 6. The occasional good cross, but struggled a little.
Walcott 5 (Sub). Saw little of the ball, just one good run in almost an hour of play.
Carroll 6 (Sub). Game performance, but often looked swamped.
Henderson 4 (Sub). Barely got a touch.
Overall, a battling defensive effort fortunately earned the penalty shootout, which might have turned out differently, had Young not unluckily hit the bar, with the crucial penalty. England tried to follow instructions to push forward, when in possession, but after the first 25 minutes, were unable to do so, because of lack of possession in midfield.
And that's what's wrong with the England football team. A good, but not great Italian side dominated midfield possession, and gave England little time on the ball. When Italy had the ball, they sprayed it around well, and always had time, and numerous passing options. In contrast, England were always rushed, with few passing options, and gave the ball away, because Italy closed them down so well.
And if you can't get the ball in midfield, you can't drive forward, and the ball will always come back towards your penalty box. BBC pundits Alan Shearer and Alan Hansen said it best, England always seemed a man short. And that's exactly the problem in midfield. It was also the problem in the 2010 World Cup, although issues in the camp didn't help.
It's OK to play a rigid 4-4-2 formation against the lesser teams, because you'll see enough of the ball, for enough of your quality to come through. But against the better teams, you need an extra man in midfield, or you won't get enough possession, and will be dominated. So why play two strikers against the better teams, when you can play just one, and use a 4-5-1 formation, giving you the extra man in midfield you need? This is what I fear Roy Hodgson should have done against Italy, and should do against the better teams, in the future.
Nevertheless, I thought that in general, England put on a good show in Euro 2012, and were unlucky in the penalty shootout.
I understood the defensive set-up against Ukraine, given the need to stop them scoring, guaranteeing at least a draw.
But I think England can afford to go for it a bit more on Sunday, for the Quarter Final against Italy. Italy don't have that much poke up front, and England have a very good defence, well supported from midfield, by Roy Hodgson's technically rigid 4-4-2 system. England's goalkeeper, and three of the four England defenders are world class, and Lescott has done very well.
To increase England's attacking options, Walcott should I think replace Milner on the right wing. Walcott has electric pace, and can run all night. By contrast, although Milner has proved his international pedigree, he does seem to struggle a little in humid conditions. I also think Carroll should replace Welbeck, who was pretty ineffective against Ukraine and Sweden, regardless of his excellent finishing skills.
Who's going to win on Sunday? I think England have a real chance of beating Italy. My money's on a score draw after extra time, with England winning on penalties, because Hart is the better goalkeeper. You'll be chewing on your fingernails, as England progress to a Semi-Final against Germany.
A more defensive England set-up, designed to stop Ukraine scoring, and you can't knock Roy Hodgson for that. Ukraine should have been awarded a goal in the second half, when a strike of theirs was clearly over the line. But England deserved their win, of both the game and group. Job done.
Hart 7. Assured, defence protected him well.
Johnson 6. Quiet. Gave away possession unnecessarily x2.
Cole 6. No mistakes. One good shot.
Terry 9 (MoM). Marshalled defence superbly, 2 crucial touches to deny goals, dangerous at England corners.
Lescott 6. Understandably super-cautious, did nothing wrong.
Gerrard 7. Great vision again.
Parker 6. Quiet, but solid.
Milner 6. Workhorse, not best suited by defensive set-up. Seems to struggle in humid conditions.
Young 6. Quiet, fundamentally because of defensive set-up.
Welbeck 5. Ineffective, surrendered possession needlessly x3, no goal this time.
Rooney 6. Looked fit, but out of practice. Often surrendered possession. Goalkeeping error gifted his tap-in.
Walcott (Sub) 6. No real impact, did nothing wrong.
Oxlade-Chamberlain (Sub) 6. Looked a bit untidy, but made a nuisance of himself.
Carroll (Sub) 6. Little time to make an impact.
Job done sums it up. I'd expect a different approach for Sunday's Quarter Final against Italy, and I think England have a real chance of progressing, to a Semi-Final against Germany.
I thought England deserved the win. Going forward, they looked more dangerous. Midfield was scrappy and clustered all game, and Sweden had the better of it, but England defended well, which was evidenced by the fact that both of Sweden's goals came from set pieces.
Hart 6. Confident, largely untroubled.
Johnson 6. Quiet but assured.
Cole 5. Uncharacteristically out of position often, needlessly surrended possession x5.
Terry 6. Lack of pace again exposed, but played well.
Lescott 6. Solid, did nothing wrong.
Gerrard 7. Great cross for the first goal, great vision.
Parker 6. Solid, continues to surprise.
Milner 7. Workhorse, some good crosses, continues to justify his selection.
Carroll 8 (MoM). Workmanlike, fantastic header for the first goal.
Welbeck 7. Not enough overall impact, but great touch for the third goal.
Young 7. Always looks dangerous and creative. Good vision.
Walcott (Sub) 8. Great strike for the second goal, set up the third.
Oxlade-Chamberlain (Sub) 6. Little time to make an impact.
Overall, a good England performance, showing spirit, commitment, desire, urgency, and promise for the future. I think they'll get the point they need against Ukraine, to qualify for the knockout stages.
I started watching this kid during the 2010 World Cup. Even at 21 years old, he seemed to have it all; poise, flair, skill, and a cool head. I watched Germany play Holland tonight in Euro 2012, and there's no doubt about it, he's very much world class. He's 23 now, and I'm sure that in a year or two, he'll emerge further, to become one of the very best players in the world. As an Englishman, I fear that the German national team, which was generally young in 2010, will develop with him, to become a truly momentous force in world football.
The Thames River Pageant said it all for me. I had to save it from Sky Anytime, so that I can watch it again, whenever I want. The effort made by those girls and guys, who belted out Land of Hope and Glory in the pelting rain, from a moving boat in the middle of a river, was nothing short of heroic. The poor girl, second from left, was visibly shivering, but gutsed it out.
I will confess that the rendition of Land of Hope and Glory made me cry my eyes out, and I've still got a tear in my eye, just writing about it. I'm not the greatest fan of what's happening in our economy at the moment, but I am patriotic. And that song had everything, everything that was British - stiff upper lip in the face of adversity, the Royal Family (who even did a little jig to the excellent sea shanty that followed), Tower Bridge over the river, the rain, the music, the people with their flags.
What did I learn from it?
Well, I'm 49 years old, 50 in August. It made me realise that money isn't all that important, after all. Just being a part of the great British journey with this monarch means much more. Now, I almost can't imagine Britain without her.
It also made me realise just how much The Queen has done, over the years. I watched the videos that were shown - she's done it all, representing Britain for 60 years, in every corner of the globe.
I also realised, just by seeing how happy everything made the Royal Family, that they are in truth, just like us, and want the same things that we want. Not too many years ago, there were some pretty dark days for the monarchy, but now they're on top of the world, and I want happiness for them, because they deserve it.
I don't agree with his politics, but I've always liked the guy. I shared in the excitement of the morning after New Labour were elected in 1997, when he spoke about his visions for a brave new world.
The really interesting question about Tony Blair is why did he really give up being Prime Minister, and hand the reins over to Gordon Brown?
The official version was that he had a heart murmur, so the time was right for him to step down, and spend more time with his family. And he has always been a great family man.
But what did he do after stepping down? He tried to become EU President, and then became Middle East Peace Envoy. I can't imagine any two things that are more stressful, hardly the ideal roles for someone with a heart problem.
Gordon Brown is a great money man, if nothing else. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown must have known that a recession was coming, and must have known that many banks were already in difficulty because of recklessness on the futures market.
I reckon that Tony Blair worked out what was coming, and decided to give Gordon Brown his dream of becoming Prime Minister. I reckon Tony Blair did it, because after a pretty successful tenure as Prime Minister, he didn't want to go down in history, as the man who presided over the economic collapse, and New Labour's inevitable election demise in 2010.
I think that Tony was great at the Levenson Enquiry, recently, and remains a great charismatic statesman. I can't say fairer than that.
Adamo Washington is a high-flying, independent African-American lawyer from New York, with a reputation of winning cases against the big law firms. Out of respect, a big rival firm hires Adamo, for a special one-off assignment. He must travel to a racial hotbed within deep-South Carolina, to decide which one of five families, all ex-plantation owners, is most deserving of a huge grant from a mystery benefactor.
Before long, Adamo realises that each of the five families have rather murky pasts, and still harbour racist notions, going back to the days of slavery. With so much money at stake, it isn't long before the families resort to unusual tactics, in an attempt to secure the nod. At first, the tactics are simply underhanded, but then they become improper, personal, dangerous, and ultimately deadly....
As is the case with his previous books, Earl Carter once again shows remarkable understanding of locations and their cultures, and there's a great touch to detail in this particular book.
4 1/2 stars for this book. 4 stars wouldn't do it justice, so we had better make it 5.
By the way, 'Look Inside' won't work here, but do check the book out on Amazon!
In this brilliant second book of a six-part series, Jean Ridgeway's ongoing battle with her domestic abuser develops into a psychological, and sometimes physical war. But as Jean reaches adolescence, she also has to deal with evolving family relationships, boyfriend troubles, school issues, deceit, jealously, heartbreak and tragedy.
In the central conflict between Jean and her abuser, there can only be one winner. Jean strives for her goals of happiness and safety, but in the end, her very physical and mental well-being come under threat, as her visions of the future become as heart-wrenching, as her experiences of the past and present....
'War With Her Father' is a hugely compelling study of family relationships at their most dysfunctional. The book also serves as a fascinating dissertation on adolescent mental health, made all the more engaging, by the fact that it is based on a true story. The second chapter and epilogue are amongst the most powerful pieces ever written on the subject.
Futuristic space shuttle Commander Lance Tucker travels back in time to change history, after an accident in orbit causes nuclear war. Battling his conscience, his own crew, Russian cosmonauts at the International Space Station, a New Orleans street gang and the American military, his actions and words have unforeseen consequences on everyone....
Futuristic space shuttle Commander Lance Tucker travels back in time to change history, after notorious assassin 'The Chinaman' shoots the American and Russian Presidents, and a devastating hurricane crosses the Atlantic.
But who is The Chinaman? His game of cat and mouse ultimately proves as dangerous as the plan to destroy the super-storm using a neutron bomb....
The title of Meatloaf's 1994 song. I never gave it a thought at the time. Is it true?
Last week, I was parked up in my Rover 75 Classic. There was a fairly distant stationary van behind me. I suddenly noticed that the van appeared a lot bigger in the rear view mirror than in the side mirror. Was it because the mirror surface areas were different? Was it because the side mirror is a little further away from me?
No, it was because the rear view mirror has a slight magnification quality, a bit like a toned-down telescope lens. The funny thing is that I've been driving for over 20 years, and have never noticed it before. Check it out, next time you're behind the wheel.....
I've watched things unfold, since my last post on the subject a few months ago. Bailouts, haircuts, bonds that guarantee nothing, billions of Euros of debt written off. Bankrupt Greece in deal after deal to avoid default after default, and withdrawal from the Eurozone. Spain, Ireland and Portugal in trouble, Italy and France struggling.
What a joke it really is. It's not about money anymore. It's about Monopoly figures on balance sheets, and it always was, since the Eurozone got into trouble because of diverging performance between economies. The Euro itself is more of a flag than a credible currency, a flag for the dream of a United Europe. The players involved just can't accept that fixed exchange rate systems don't work - and the Euro is the ultimate in fixed exchange rates, because one unit of one nation's money is one unit of another nation's money, 1:1. Take a look at the Gold Standard, Bretton Woods, The Snake - they all lasted only as long as the economic performance of the nations involved remained reasonably in line, a state of affairs that can never last for ever.
So they're now trying ridiculous scheme after ridiculous scheme to try and save the Euro, because they think that to abandon it, or to watch nations fall out of the Eurozone, means that the dream of a United Europe is lost. But in economic terms, that's the whole reason why it could never work long-term in the first place - the Dollar works in the United States of America, and the Pound works in the UK because the constituent States or Counties don't have their own economic sovereignty, their own fluctuating circumstances of cross-border trade.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (above right) has said in the recent past that Greece should make its debt repayments before paying its doctors and nurses, and its economy should be subject to central control, and that war could result if the Eurozone splits up, and that guaranteed bonds aren't guaranteed anymore, and should be traded in for bonds that are worth less. She seems knowledgeable, but it sometimes sounds like Germany, the largest economy in Europe, is trying to play Fourth Reich, and that it views Greece as a naughty province which never does what it undertakes to do. And Germany is in negative growth itself, isn't it?
So where's it all going to end? The fact that it's been going on for so long tells you that the Eurozone doesn't work, and can never work. It never could work for too long, because of the reasons described above. It's time to view the Eurozone in monetary rather than ideallistic terms, and break it up to stop the effects of gross uncertainty on the rest of the sensible world.
Here's my review of this wonderful poetic children's picture book about school bullying, which is currently being used in Irish schools, and with which Colleen is currently touring New York and Michigan;
'A wonderfully illustrated childhood tale, based in Ireland. A very engaging and emotional story, told using some very sweet poetry. And a very important message about the key issue of bullying. Worth the money for the pictures alone, will be enjoyed by children, parents and teachers all over the world.' STEVE STONE
Here's my review of 'Dragons and Butterflies: Just Like Her Father' by Marie Jensen, which leaped on the first day of its release to UK #1 Kindle School-Age Bestseller, and has stayed there ever since;
'Often hilarious, sometimes heart-wrenching, always touching. You will be rooting for Jean Ridgeway, as she battles her domestic abuser, and her own fears with the help of her friends. This wonderful childhood tale spans the UK and the 1960's racial hotbed of Singapore, and is made all the more engaging by the fact that it is loosely based on a true story. The tale is the first in a series of six novels, charting Jean's colourful life. Marie Jensen has delivered plenty already, and the remaining volumes in the saga promise much more.' STEVE STONE
I would urge you to check out all of the other great reviews at;
The weather was reasonable here in Swindon, England, so I decided on a day out, wandering about with the wife, Debi. As usual, she decided to head for the shops after a while. Now usually, the shopping element of any day out is a little bit of a chore for me, but this time was very different.
I sighed, as we headed into Swindon Town Centre's newly-opened Poundland store. But they had a few low price offers that even I was impressed at. And there were shiny new wooden floors, that felt like a dance floor, and they had a fantastic sound system, which played a mixture of Phil Collins and Michael Jackson hits.
It was a pleasure to walk around the place, listening to the great music, and at one point, I got a funny look from an assistant, as I bopped around in an aisle to a Collins number. Can't wait to go back, and I never thought I would say that about a shop.....
'....the gold standard in the sci-fi adventure genre.... Mr. Stone has earned the title of Emporer of this genre.' RICK FRIEDMAN, JAMES MASON COMMUNITY BOOK CLUB
And here's the full review;
'Intrepid - Revelations (Intrepid #3) is the eagerly awaited third book in what has quickly become the gold standard in the sci-fi adventure genre. Steve Stone scores a hat-trick with Intrepid - Revelations as it builds on the superb platform of the first two books and reintroduces Colonel Lance Tucker, a character so well defined and drawn, that reading about his third foray into space is like meeting an old friend. Time travel is never an easy theme to conquer, yet Mr. Stone not only does so seamlessly, but has earned the title of Emperor of this genre. Tackling age old mysteries from Jack The Ripper to the JFK assassination, this novel is a veritable time machine which transports the reader into many worlds and eras. The level of detail and complexities of both plot and character allow for such spectacular themes to be not only palatable to the reader, makes for edge of your seat reading. Intrepid - Revelations is not a book to start before bedtime, for if you do, your eyes will not shut until the final page is read. The narrative is that addicting and enthralling. While Col. Tucker seeks to change history, Mr Stone has made it with producing a third book in a series that not only equals the greatness of the first two books, but propels the Intrepid franchise into the stratosphere of sci-fi adventure excellence.'
AN OFFICIAL JAMES MASON COMMUNITY BOOK CLUB MUST READ
RICK FRIEDMAN, FOUNDER, JAMES MASON COMMUNITY BOOK CLUB
Who was Jack the Ripper?
Did Hitler commit suicide, or did he survive the war?
Who really shot JFK?
And did O.J. Simpson really do it?
Check out 'Intrepid - Revelations';
28 January 2018. Post-Obama, Colonel Lance Tucker is Commander of the next generation X-33 space shuttle Intrepid. Its latest mission to the International Space Station ends in calamity and tragedy, when a meteor shower strikes.
General Jack Nelson orders Lance to use a secret flying saucer at Area 51, to travel back in time and change history. An imprisoned alien navigator offers assistance in exchange for his freedom, but a slip of the tongue diverts the journey to 1888 London, 1945 Berlin, 1963 Dallas, and 1994 Los Angeles.
En route to try and save the ISS, Lance cannot resist the challenge of solving the greatest mysteries of the modern world. Who was really Jack the Ripper? Did Hitler commit suicide, or did he somehow escape the wrath of the Allies? Who really shot President John F. Kennedy? And did O.J. Simpson really do it?
But as Lance closes on the space station, does the alien navigator have a secret agenda? The shocking revelations continue to the very end....
Which Jack the Ripper suspect had a very questionable alibi for the murder of Mary Kelly?
Why did the Ripper suddenly stop killing?
What did America want most, at the end of the Second World War?
Lee Harvey Oswald aside, which JFK assassination suspect had a very questionable alibi?
And O.J. Simpson aside, who else had the motive and means to kill, together with a suspect alibi?
‘Intrepid’ (2010). Time travel.
‘Intrepid - The Two Storms’ (2011). Time travel, murder mystery.
'Intrepid - Revelations' can easily be read in isolation, but it'll help just a little bit if you've read the previous novels in the series, especially regarding the background of the characters (particularly the fisherman).
And coming soon;
‘Intrepid - Regression’ (2013). Time travel, historical fiction.
‘Intrepid - Requiem’ (2014). Space opera.
I was worried, when I heard Channel 5 were going to have a crack at screening Big Brother, but I must say that the current series has been excellent, as has Brian Dowling. Of all the series to date, this topsy-turvy one is probably the most difficult to call, but here's my take on it;
Louise, at the centre, is more of a gameplayer than she lets on. In the early weeks, she sat back, without doing or saying too much. She has looks and personality, and decided to stay out of trouble, hoping to emerge from the pack, when the field narrowed a bit.
She saw Jay as her golden opportunity to reach the final. He's besotted with her, but although she has developed some true feelings for him, she's not quite genuine. The biggest giveaway was when she dumped him one Sunday, because she thought he was going to be put up for eviction against Aaron, only to take Jay back the very next day, when she realised he wasn't going anywhere, because Anton and Aden were put up for eviction as well. I'm sure that outside the house, she'll keep it going with him for a while to get magazine deals, but she'll eventually discard him, and will end up a footballer's wife.
Louise is nevertheless a nice person, and since emerging from her shell, she has demonstrated top-girl personality and looks. But apart from her ongoing association with Jay, she hasn't really done or said much. The relationship with Jay has also revealed her to be a little shallow and vulgar, so I don't think she can win. May well be evicted, this coming Thursday night.
Tom was in terrible trouble in the early weeks, as all too often, he often couldn't hide his true bitchy, backstabbing nature. In the early running, he was fortunate not to be put up for eviction, which gave him just enough time to formulate his one and only attempt at true gameplay - his engineering of the 'fun' partnership with Alex. He would have been gone a long time ago, but for that, and he knows it.
To be fair, the pair's antics have often been good to watch. Tom's good fun, when the mood takes him, but still struggles on occasion to contain his spiteful streak. The nasty side of Tom means he can't win, but he might just make the final, surviving eviction over Louise on Thursday.
Alex, on the left, has in truth contributed little more than her smile. The long hair extensions were important to her, because they are the only thing that disguise her mediocre looks, which are as plain as her airhead personality, and often unintelligible speech.
But she may well win. She was quiet in the early weeks, but the 'fun' partnership with Tom gave her the change to emerge a little. She knew it as well, and once the partnership had started, she began to visit the Diary Room more often, to tell the public how she was doing. Like Mark, her efforts to entertain often feel a bit forced, but her happy-go-lucky nature could win the series, because consistently smiling through all the conflict has made her look good, against the other housemates.
People who sit on the fence, paint a smile, and don't do or say very much can win Big Brother, look at Rachel Rice and Sophie Reade. Alex has contributed even less than they did, but might win by default, as she's the only one who has steered clear of conflict, which has possibly generated enough reasons why the others can't win.
The producers are trying to bolster Alex's chances, by giving her more coverage this week. But the one thing that might hurt her chances was the revelation that she once short-changed a blind person to buy her own lunch, a tale that indicates she's not as squeaky-clean as she seems.
Jay, a brash, but likeable Northener. He's been playing a game, from the very start. He formed and led the 'Wolf Pack', in an attempt to dominate others and subtlely influence nomination voting, with the aim of eliminating housemates from the series, one by one.
Jay always perceived arch-enemy Aaron to be his greatest threat. He employed a strategy to eliminate those around Aaron first, before concentrating on the main target. But the plan didn't work out, so Jay cleverly struck up an awkward friendship with Aaron, after the last Wolf Pack member was evicted. As part of his gameplay, Jay also consciously cut back on swearing, from the point he was first put up for eviction.
He's the most genuine of all the housemates, and has often been entertaining to watch. He has a large female fan base, and a small chance to win. Last night, he finally resolved the latest conflict with Aaron, which erupted over the purchase of birthday presents for Tom and Alex. It was hard for Jay to swallow his pride, and discuss it again with Aaron, but I think he knew he had to do it, to keep any chance of winning alive.
Jay's vulgar side will probably prevent him from winning the series. In particular, wiping his bum on Louise's pillowcase didn't do him any favours.
Aaron is trying to win it for his son, and is the biggest gameplayer in Big Brother history. He's very cleverly put himself at the centre of most things, almost from the beginning. The flirting with Maisy, then Rebeckah. The conflict with Tom, who thought Aaron fancied him. Taking on Jay's Wolf Pack, when they forced his friend Mark out. Deliberately failing shopping tasks, to deny Jay and Anton food. The tumultuous relationship with Faye - I think he developed some genuine feelings for her, but she was also part of his game to reach the final. The conflict with Faye's sister, who arrived as a newcomer, to stir the relationship up. The character assassination of the friends' and families' nominations. The electric shock nominations, when he voted contrary to the other housemates' plan to stage a result. The conflict with Jay and Louise, over birthday presents for Alex and Tom.
Originally, I thought Aaron was making a big mistake, when he objected to Louise and Jay spending £1,000 of the prize money on Tom and Alex. Jay and Louise were trying to gain viewer votes by displaying generosity, but there was also a genuine warmth to their desire to purchase the presents. Ignoring them for a few days initially made Aaron look isolated and bad, but then he very cleverly turned the situation around. He began to regularly play Tom and Alex's silly games, which eventually made Louise and Jay look isolated instead, and perhaps a little guilty of trying to buy votes. Eventually, Aaron reduced muscleman Jay to tears, forcing him to make the first move to reconcile the situation, which in turn made Aaron look good, for agreeing to bury the hatchet. And the more I thought about it, the more I realised that Aaron had engineered the situation, to re-ignite the conflict with Jay, providing one last opportunity to push his buttons. And the fact that Jay eventually got warned by Big Brother for becoming too aggressive makes Aaron an even bigger schemer than 'Nasty Nick' Bateman.
You see, sometimes it's been upfront, and sometimes it's been underlying, but the simmering battle between Aaron and Jay has been the defining feature of the series, and Aaron knows it. The winner of the battle is not quite yet decided, but Aaron's clearly had the upper hand to date.
If winning Big Brother was judged by the contribution of individual housemates, Aaron's got it won, hands-down. But gameplaying is unpopular in many circles, and Aaron's strops and sulkiness when things don't go his way might cost him. From an early stage, I thought the ongoing conflict between Aaron and Jay would ultimately determine the winner, but there's also the danger it might scupper them both, and let an agreeable neutral through to win.
So who is going to win the Big Brother Final? Although I want Aaron to win, my final prediction is;
1. Alex (up 2 from last week).
2. Aaron (down 1).
3. Jay (down 1).
4. Tom (up 1).
For all my previous November, October and September posts on house dynamics, please check out the right-hand sidebar, towards the top of this blog.
The 'Michael Jackson' trial is finally over. I've followed the thrust of it throughout, watching the excellent live coverage from Sky News, here in the UK. So is Conrad Murray guilty of the involuntary manslaughter of Michael Jackson? Here's my take on it all.
1. Murray had been administering the surgical anasthetic propofol to Jackson for quite some time, in conjunction with other drugs. The desired effect was to help the singer sleep, so that he could fulfil his performing and business commitments. The time Jackson had been using propofol and other drugs preceded his involvement with Murray, and Murray unwisely chose to continue the treatment program for money. Murray fully realised the dangers involved with using propofol, but ordered very significant quantities of it, because Jackson had asked Murray to accompany him on a forthcoming 10-month tour. One evening, Jackson ultimately died from an overdose of propofol, administered in combination with other drugs.
Does Murray's agreement to use propofol constitute the single 'substantial factor' in Jackson's death that is necessary for criminal negligence, and thereby involuntary manslaughter to be proven? I think Murray's attitude to the use of propofol was extremely unwise, but for me, the answer is no. Better to administer the drug in some form of controlled manner, than to let Jackson give it to himself.
2. There's no doubt that Murray didn't have the ideal resources available to properly administer propofol, monitor its use on Jackson, or take necessary corrective action should an unexpected event happen. Does this constitute the single 'substantial factor' required for guilt? For me, the answer is again no. Other examples came up, where propofol has been used in a non-surgical environment, for example experimentally, or in a hospice. It was recognised that in reality, such uses might not have all of the ideal safeguards in place, and for me, it wasn't proven that Murray's efforts were unreasonable, including restricting Jackson personal access to the drug.
3. Did Murray negligently administer enough propofol to kill Jackson, in conjunction with the effect of other drugs, as a 'substantial factor' in his death? I believe that Murray used a drip-feed to administer propofol to Jackson, since one or even two 25ml shots would have probably not put Jackson to sleep for long. Murray admitted to police that drip-feeds had been added on many occasions previously for this purpose. I also believe that Murray must have smuggled the drip out of the room, since none of the equipment recovered by police showed much evidence of propofol being used.
But whilst I think Murray may well have messed up the propofol drip-feed, feeding Jackson too much of the drug, I don't think the prosecution proved it beyond a reasonable doubt. And for me, the broken syringe on the floor constitutes reasonable doubt that Jackson might have self-administered the drug - even in a state of panic, why would a trained physician throw a valuable asset on the floor?
Finally, given the unusual setting, I don't think it was unreasonable for Murray to step into the bathroom for two minutes, and for me, it wasn't proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he was out of the immediate area for any longer, thereby abandoning his duty of care.
So for me, the required 'substantial factor' was not proven here.
4. Did Murray act negligently in his attempts to save Jackson, once discovering that he was no longer breathing, as a 'substantial factor' in his death? You can imagine Murray's state of mind, upon making the discovery. Jackson was one of the most famous men in the world, and Murray faced ruin, if he couldn't save him. I think that in his state of mind, Murray forgot his medical training, and made a hash of trying to resuscitate Jackson. But I don't think the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Murray's actions contributed to his death.
It's what Murray didn't do that condemns him. He didn't call 911, or organise a call to 911, in a timeframe that was anywhere near reasonable. It was quite deliberate, in my view. He gambled that he could save Jackson alone, and the world would never need to know what happened. When his gamble didn't work out, he didn't offer full information to other medical personnel, hoping that everything might go away, or at least that an investigation might be delayed.
There was no excuse for not calling emergency services, pretty much straight away. It wouldn't have been unreasonable to conduct a short attempt at resuscitation first, but he had his phone on his person, and it had a speaker. How long would it have taken to dial 911, and activate the speaker, enabling him to alert emergency services whilst continuing his efforts to save Jackson?
It's this inaction alone that constitutes the single 'substantial factor' in Jackson's death, that Murray was responsible for. Murray's delay in calling 911 denied Jackson the opportunity for paramedics to save him.
So whilst Murray is guilty as charged, I do hope there will be a little leniency for him. He was clearly placed under enormous pressure to supply propofol to Jackson, and there was a lot of money and prestige attached to having the singer as a client.
Aaron's had a bit of a bad week, hasn't he? The electric shock nominations on Sunday night showed just what a gameplayer he is. The remaining six housemates came up with a plan to nominate each other in turn, so they would all face the final public eviction vote together. Aaron played along because he was first to nominate, but when Big Brother wouldn't accept an engineered result, the votes were scrapped, and the housemates had to start all over again.
In the revised voting, Aaron wasn't first to nominate two housemates to face eviction. Alex nominated before him, and from the look on her face, I believe her nominations were genuine. Recognising he had been given a chance to put Louise up for eviction, and guarantee his place in next week's final, Aaron played the game and nominated her, knowing that if she voted for Tom or Alex, Louise would face four opponents in the public vote - not a bad place to be.
What happened next was edited out of the main highlights show, but was shown on the fanzine 'Big Brother's Bit on the Side'. In the highlights show, Louise was shown nominating Faye, meaning that just the two of them now face eviction. But Louise actually nominated Tom first, before Big Brother forced her to change her engineered vote.
Aaron took all the blame for what happened. He could have nominated differently, meaning that the plan for all of the housemates to be put up for eviction together could have still been fulfilled, but he chose to play the game instead. And why not? It is a game, and he's trying to win it for his son. It's fair to say that he deliberately voted contradictory to the plan, and that Louise faces the public eviction vote because of it. But for housemates to blame him for Faye being included in the eviction vote was unfair, since Louise had the last nominations, and could have voted for Alex instead of Tom. And under that scenario, Faye would have faced the public vote anyway, albeit against four opponents, instead of just one.
Although blaming Aaron for the debacle was unfair, his stroppy, sulky reaction to Faye's venomous attitude didn't do him any favours, especially given that just the night before, he had withdrawn from the group because he didn't like the choice of music for a party. Tuesday night's pointless argument with Faye over her choice of clothes for another musical evening was also not good to watch.
Everything however has settled down, since then. Aaron has won back Faye's affections, and has even started to get on with Tom a bit. He's more full-on in his relationship with Faye now, in an effort to keep her in the house over Louise this Friday.
I still think Aaron can win. He's deep and engaging, and has been at the centre of everything, from the start. The flirting with Maisy and Rebeckah. Then Tom thought Aaron fancied him. Aaron took up with Faye, and then took on Jay's Wolf Pack, when they forced Mark out. Then Faye's sister arrived as a newcomer, to stir everything up. The friends' and families' nominations were a character assassination of Aaron, and the electric shock nominations were a disaster for him, albeit a little unfairly.
Throughout it all, the only thing Aaron has done 'wrong' is playing a game, a game which Big Brother has often made very difficult for him. Yes, he's the biggest gameplayer in the show's long history, and although he does have some genuine feelings for Faye, she has always been part of his game to reach the final. But he's contributed the most out of all the housemates, and I think the show would have been quite dull without him.
I do think that one more extended, sulky strop will destroy Aaron's chances, but if he ups his game in the final week, and stays out of trouble, he could win. He does have a big fan base, which appears to have stayed loyal.
Louise, in the middle, there. Big Brother did her a favour by only showing her electric shock nomination of Faye in the highlights show. It made it look as though she had sacrificed herself to keep Tom in the house for Alex's forthcoming birthday party, even though she had actually nominated Tom first.
Louise is a bit more of a gameplayer than you might think. She stayed quiet, keeping herself out of trouble in the early weeks, knowing her looks and personality could emerge from a narrower field. Then she took up with Jay, thinking he might carry her to the final. I do think she has developed some genuine feelings for him, but knows it can't work on the outside. Otherwise, why did she drop him like a stone, for the one day she thought he was going to be put up for eviction against Aaron?
She has the looks and personality to win, there's no doubt about that. But coming out of her shell has revealed her as a little shallow and vulgar, and that's why she can't win. She might well survive this Friday's eviction ahead of Faye, as a lot of people think she's 100% genuine with Jay. But whilst she'll keep the relationship with him going on the outside for magazine deals, she'll eventually drop him, and end up a footballer's wife.
Faye, a naive and paranoid 19-year-old. Although Aaron often doesn't say the right thing to her, she is inclined to start an argument over practically nothing. But she's a lovely person, and has substance. I think she's worked out that despite her feelings for Aaron, he isn't for her on the outside. But she's now gone full-on with him, thinking it will keep her in the house over Louise this Friday. I think that plan might backfire, since many people might be inclined to phone in and save Louise, just to see how Aaron will react to Faye's absence. Aaron fans might also want to save Louise, to give him a clean slate, and a chance to be himself in the final week.
Despite Louise being bookies' favourite to be evicted this week, I do think Faye will go. The reasons above are the wrong ones, since Faye has contributed much more than Louise. But that's the way it goes. It'll be a shame, since with a strong final week, I think Faye had a small chance of winning. But regardless, juicy magazine deals with Aaron await on the outside.
It's hard not to like Jay, a brash but very genuine northener. But his genuine feelings for Louise are not quite reciprocated, I fear. He's upped his game this week, and has been both entertaining and caring. His attempts to further his friendship with Aaron has done him some favours, particularly given that they were long time enemies. Jay's efforts to reconcile Faye and Aaron's relationship were also admirable.
Jay's got a growing fan base of girl voters, and could still win, with a big final week. But I don't think someone who thinks it's funny to wipe his bum on his girlfriend's pillowcase can quite do it.
Alex, on the left. Her fun, happy-go-lucky attitude may well win it for her, combined with the fact that she needs the money more than most - but the revelation that she once short-changed a blind person to get her own lunch did her no favours at all. She's made a big effort to be more entertaining this week. But she would be a default winner for me, in the sense that she might win because there are reasons the others can't. In truth, she has contributed little more than a smile. Even previous fence-sitters Sophie Reade and Rachel Rice did a little bit more than that.
Did you notice that Alex was preening her false hair extenstions in the mirror, even when trying to walk though a trap consisting of strings between two walls, whilst balancing glasses on a tray during the 'All-White' task? That's because she knows the mass of hair extensions are the only thing that disguise her mediocre looks, which are in reality as plain as her personality. She's a complete airhead to boot, and I can only understand about 50% of what little she says.
If her coming birthday bash is more sparkly than Anton's, you'll know Big Brother wants her to win. It would be her only big storyline to date.
You've got to hand it to him, he's been entertaining this week. But the fun partnership he engineered with Alex is the only thing that's kept him in so long. As well as making me laugh a few times, he's also annoyed me with his regular bitching and backstabbing against Aaron, including a couple of nasty insults during the 'Love Story' task.
Although Tom can be fun when the mood takes him, he can't help his bitchy, backstabbing nature, which he has failed to contain on a number of occasions throughout the series. My wife, Debi, says that it's the 'queen' in him. I think that's about right, and his nastiness is the reason he can't win.
So who is going to win? I'm going to stick to my guns, and not predict a 'default' winner;
1. Aaron (up 1 from last week).
2. Jay (down 1).
3. Alex (up 2).
4. Louise (same as last week).
5. Tom (new entry).
Watch this space next week, for my final Big Brother prediction. For my previous posts on house dynamics, check out the October and September posts on the right-hand sidebar.
In a shock sudden twist, housemates will nominate face-to-face tonight, in place of the normal Monday nomination process. Dressed in Haloween costumes, they will sit in electric chairs, and one vote equals one electric shock for the nominated housemate.
I think the new alliance between Jay and Aaron means something. I believe the two boyfriend-girlfriend pairs of Jay and Louise, and Aaron and Faye will club their nominations together, and put the 'fun' pair of Tom and Alex up for eviction. Tom will go this Friday, leaving Alex isolated in the final week.
I also think only Faye, Alex or Aaron can win now. Faye's been involved in a lot of arguments over the past couple of weeks, and the revelation that Alex once short-changed a blind person to get her own lunch was a bit of a shocker, so it's Aaron for me now.
Watch this space for more, after the nominated housemates are revealed.
It all sounds a bit complicated, doesn't it? There's a lot of money floating around. The trouble is, everyone owes it to everyone else. Some of the economies on mainland Europe are in big trouble, with colossal debts, especially Greece. The taxpayers of wealthier economies have a big problem with helping out debt-ridden economies, again and again. And it's been rumbling on for ages.
For me, the Eurozone crisis is very simple. Fixed exchange rates don't work, and the ultimate in fixing your exchange rate is to have the same money as someone else, it's one unit of your money to one unit of theirs.
Historically, fixed exchange rate systems have never worked, even when rates are fixed within limits. Look at the Gold Standard of the 1920's and 30's. Look at the Bretton Woods system, in the post-war period. Look at 'the snake', in the 1970's.
Eventually, they all fell apart. They were introduced in the interests of creating economic stability, but couldn't be maintained, despite rescue efforts, because a significant disparity will eventually arise in the performance of one or more of the economies involved, against the others.
Does that sound like a familiar story to you, based on news coverage from the recent past? Just ask yourself a question. If you loaned a lot of money to a friend, and discovered they couldn't pay you back, would you lend them money again? And if you did lend them a lot of money for a second time, and they couldn't pay you back, would you do it on a third occasion?
You wouldn't, would you? If you did, you would be very unwise. Eventually, the friend walks away, and is forced to go it alone, after running out of people who are willing to chase a lost cause. And the money is gone.
Eventually, the Eurozone will break up, in monetary terms. The Euro was launched in pursuance of the dream of a united Europe. From a British perspective, thank goodness we stayed away from a united currency, and I do admire David Cameron's stance on no more bailouts. His stance is also correct on Britain's membership of the EU, and the proposed referendum. It would be insanity for Britain to pull out, it's about the advantages of open trade, not the money you use.
Alex, on the left there, has upped her game just a little this week. Winning the boat-rowing task did her chances a favour.
And she's started to come to the Diary Room a bit more often, to tell Big Brother and the public how she's doing. But it all feels a little forced, like Mark's efforts to use the Diary Room as an entertainment platform.
Her positive attitude at all times might just allow her to emerge from the relationship-based arguments and faction-based backstabbing (see below for more on these things), and win. But for me, she hasn't contributed nearly enough, and if I wanted to watch four-year old games, I would have watched PlaySchool, not Big Brother.
A clever move on Tom's part, instigating the still-developing relationship with Alex. He'd be long gone, but for that, and he thinks Alex will carry him to the final. But underneath his contribution to the new fun partnership, he's bitchy, backstabbing and spiteful. The pairing with Alex may well result in him finishing sixth, keeping him in over Harry.
Have you noticed that Jay has almost completely stopped swearing, since last being put up for eviction? He's the biggest character left, and the most genuine of the remaining housemates. Underneath all the muscle and bravado, there's a nice and caring guy. He's even begun to get chummy with his old enemy, Aaron. Jay's feelings for Louise are real, although I doubt they're fully reciprocated.
Not fully participating in a couple of tasks did him no favours. He could still win with a big effort towards the end, but it'll take a lot to make people forget that he was a part of Anton's lies about Aaron, after the crypt task.
Louise, Jay's girl, at the centre of the picture. She appears to have developed some genuine feelings for Jay, but I think they're largely false, and are designed to get her to the final. I'm sure she fancies him, but knows he's not for her, when they get out of the house. That's why she dropped him like a stone, when she thought he would be up for eviction against Aaron. She took Jay back the very next day, when she realised he wasn't going anywhere, because Anton and Aden were up for eviction as well.
Louise lacks substance, and will ultimately end up as a footballer's wife.
Harry's continued to grow on me, despite becoming more stuck-up, of late. But the three relationships (Jay and Louise, Aaron and Faye, Tom and Alex) are the defining feature of the show now, and he's outside of that picture. I don't think a fox hunter can win, and he'll finish behind Tom, if put up for eviction next week.
Jemma was against Aaron's relationship with her sister Faye, before she came into the house as a late newcomer. Most of it is an older sister's natural reaction, to Faye becoming involved with an older man.
But Jemma played her cards close to her chest for a while, pretending to give Aaron the benefit of the doubt. Anton's lies about Aaron's attitude towards Faye pushed Jemma over the edge, prompting Jemma to confront Aaron, sooner than she otherwise might have done. Anton knew that would be the case, of course, and the lies were his parting shot to Aaron, one of the last actions of the dying Wolf Pack faction. And unfortunately, Aaron was never going to forgive Jemma, once she had accused him of being false with Faye.
I think Jemma is very competitive, but is confrontational with it, in a spiteful and bitchy way. I don't like the way she celebrates Aaron's misfortunes. That's not sporting, and it's not Big Brother. And if anyone is trying to mess with Faye's head, it's Jemma, not Aaron.
Jemma is up for eviction against Aaron this week, and I very much hope she goes. But unfortunately, there's just a chance that Jemma's prior appearances on Gladiators might generate enough votes to keep her in, even though Aaron has a big fan base. She doesn't care about Big Brother anymore, she knows she can't win. She wants to go home, because she knows that she can't stop arguing with Faye, like sisters often do. If Jemma does stay in on Friday, she'll walk off the series, mission against Aaron accomplished.
I only heard this week that Faye is just 19 years old. She comes across older than that, except for her teenage paranoia, and propensity to argue over very little. Mind you, Faye has plenty to be paranoid about, she has seen that her sister and mother don't believe Aaron is good for her. Their view is a natural reaction to a 19-year-old family member falling for a 30-year-old guy, and I'm sure that the families of the other contestants had that in mind, when they nominated Aaron to face eviction against Jemma (see my previous post http://stevestonechat.blogspot.com/2011/10/british-big-brother-families-and.html).
Faye could still win, she has substance. But it'll take a big effort towards the end, given all the arguments she's had with Jemma and Aaron.
Dear old Aaron, he's been through a lot, hasn't he? Most things have revolved around him from the start. He flirted with Maisy and Rebeckah. Tom thought Aaron fancied him. Aaron started a relationship with Faye, then took on Jay's Wolf Pack, after they drove Mark out. Then Jemma arrived, an ex-Gladiator, and Faye's sister. Big Brother messed with Aaron's head some more, by allowing the results of nominations to be altered. And finally, the friends' and families' nominations were a character assassination of him.
When I first heard the news, I thought allowing friends and families to nominate was a nice 'twist'. But when I watched it unfold in full, it left me feeling a bit sick. It really upset Faye and Aaron, two of the best housemates, and that was a bit difficult to watch. The producers must have known it would happen, and I was left wondering why they did it, why they allowed the distress that it caused, and is still causing.
Is it because Big Brother decides who wins? In the last series, my wife and I worked out pretty quickly that John James Parton wasn't genuine about Josie Gibson, but the producers didn't upset them by introducing family members, or letting relations and friends speak from the outside world, because they knew what big issues would have done to Josie....
So what's the real truth about Aaron and Faye? There's no doubt that Faye's feelings are genuine. I do think that at the beginning of their relationship, Faye was primarily a part of Aaron's game to reach the final. But as things went on, I think Faye grew on him more and more, and now he's pretty genuine about it. I don't think the relationship will work in the outside world, but that's not the point. Why deeply upset two housemates that have contributed so much?
It's true Aaron's a big gameplayer, he has been from the start. He's trying to win it for his son. But it's the gameplay, and depth of personality that makes him so engaging, and I doubt if the series would have held much interest without him. The introduction of his girl's sister was bad enough, but for me, the character assassination was a step too far. If Aaron walks, or doesn't make the final because of how he's been treated, I won't be watching anymore. And I think many thousands would be joining me.
So who's going to win? Even though I'd like it to be Aaron, I've currently got;
1. Jay (same as last week).
2. Aaron (same as last week).
3. Faye (same as last week).
4. Louise (new entry).
5. Alex (down 1 from last week).