Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Revisiting The X Files: S05 E02

S05E02: Redux II

Fox immediately blows his cover to visit Scully in hospital, which is really a rookie maneuver. After meeting with Blevins to determine why he has faked his death and implicated Scully as well, he and Skinner exchange information.

The play off between Mulder and The Smoking Man here is terrific, with each man's certainty of their own convictions tested. The information that could cure Scully's cancer, as well as the introduction of Samantha, or someone who is being played as Samantha, tips the scales in the direction of 'evil', but Mulder's determined refusal to join his side is still refreshing even given we all knew he would say no. The episode is also significant for Scully's return to her religious faith, and it cleverly makes it ambiguous as to whether it was faith, alien technology or plain science that enables her cancer to go into remission by the episode's end. 

The announcement of The Smoking Man's death does seem plainly ridiculous from Skinner, given no body is found, and only going on the amount of blood lost. Surely even he by now should know better than to pronounce someone dead without such evidence as a body. 4.5/5

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Revisiting The X Files: S05 E01

S05E01: Redux

After we immediately get past the relapse into the cliffhanger from Season 4, and have it confirmed that Mulder is indeed not dead, we can concentrate on the two halves of the episode. Scully has to cover for Mulder, making everyone believe that he is dead at the hearing. Our friend The Smoking Man doesn't believe Mulder is dead, and breaks into his apartment in search of information. 

Meanwhile, Mulder breaks into the Department of Defense, where one of the finest monologues of the whole show takes place, as Michael Kritschgau (John Finn) escorts Mulder around and explains to him the theory behind the whole hoax and why it has taken place. It is tremendous, and brilliantly delivered. It is one of the scenes of the entire The X Files series.

Mulder delves into secret locations and finds what he believes is a cure for Scully's cancer in a box within, but having taken it to the Lone Gunmen discovers it is only water. The episode ends with Scully collapsing at the hearing with blood again coming from her nose, signalling the worst. perhaps. 4.5/5

Monday, August 24, 2015

Revisiting The X Files: S04 E24

S04E24: Gethsemane

Here we go again. "We've found an alien corpse!". "Oh, almost everyone who knows about it is dead". "Mulder is here! He sees the alien corpse, it must be real!". "More people who know about it die!". "Scully probably has proof, but chooses not to believe, but believes a stranger who says it's a conspiracy!". "Mulder doesn't believe it!".

We've seen most of this before in one way shape or form. And we will again. Trying to spin this into a story to cover up government stories by making Mulder believe in alien lifeforms and technology is done well, as well as going back and forth in the hearing being held that Scully is speaking at. The cliffhanger ending is a bit of a cop out, because we all know Mulder will not be dead. Even at the time it wasn't convincing nor did it invoke the same emotion as the end of Season 2.  3.5/5

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Revisiting The X Files: S04 E23

S04E23: Demons

Though it does have much to do with the overreaching story of Samantha Mulder, and the actual details of her abduction/disappearance in the past, this episode does tend to bore me, and not really hold my attention. There are lots of details here in Mulder's flashbacks that are pieces of the story that is still to be told over future series, but the interwoven plot along with that tends to get bogged down in details that aren't as interesting. 3.5/5

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Revisiting The X Files: S04 E22

S04E22: Elegy

The return of Scully here is expanded by a more integral role for her in this episode, where she actually experiences the unexplained, and has to wrap her head around it rather than have Mulder spelling it out for her. It was nice for a change to again have Scully being an active participant in the believing side of the episode, and not just constantly debunking Mulder's theories. This really did have a One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest feel to it, which was apparently what the writers wanted.

The ending may not be the cleanest or cleverest but it was still a fun episode to watch. 4/5

Friday, August 21, 2015

Revisiting The X Files: S04 E21

S04E21: Zero Sum

A second Skinner-based episode, and it's another beauty. The Smoking Man is making him run around in circles, and he doesn't like it one little bit. With Scully not in the picture at all, being in hospital for her cancer, there is some great interaction between Skinner and Cancer Man, and Skinner and Mulder, as the episode winds its way through the twists and turns, and the return of the bees first introduced by the Syndicate back in "Herrenvolk".

Skinner's character continue to improve the more he is given to show his wares. This episode gives a different perspective on both his and Mulder's characters and works well within the framework of the series.  4.5/5

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Revisiting The X Files: S04 E20

S04E20: Small Potatoes

This is a beauty written by Vince Gilligan, where the story starts with Mulder and Scully investigating a town where babies have been born with tails, but the case turns on its head when they discover that the babies all have the same father... which would appear impossible.

Enter Eddie Van Bundht, who is a much more intriguing character than it initially appears when he is confirmed as the father of all five children. A bit corny in places, but this is an enjoyable X File all the same. 4.5/5

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Revisiting The X Files: S04 E19

S04E19: Synchrony

Now here's something you can get your teeth into, though of course its full of holes and the timelines and counter-timelines have absolutely no chance of ever marrying up. But finally there is some time travel in the X Files, as an old man seems to be disposing of scientists who are on the verge of a great discovery. But why? And how?

Of course Fox eventually realises (too late) that the old man is here to do exactly that, but he's come to stop himself! Well, it mightn't be perfect, but when it comes to time travel stories I am very anally retentive about it all, so sit back and enjoy and don't worry about my droning. 4.5/5

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


On a day when the AFL announced the richest TV deal in the history of Australian sport - $2.5 billion if you don't mind - the Essendon football club finally took the decision that should have been made over two years ago, when it announced that James Hird was no longer the senior coach of the club. It should have gone further, but these things never go as far as they should when they should.
At the press conference, the two quotes that amused me the most were the following:

James Hird: "Club Chairman Paul Little and I agreed the club would never be free of the ASADA saga as long as I was head coach".

Paul Little: "The outcome will provide the players and the club the benefit of a fresh start and a clean slate".

Well, tally-ho boys, jolly good show and pip-pip for good thinking. No one would ever have thought of that.

Said no one ever.

There was some rubbish that came out of that press conference yesterday, and no doubt we were all meant to believe every single word.

Seriously. James Hird's statement was certainly true, but it was true two years ago as well, when Hird refused to step down as coach and Little and his board instead gave him a year's paid holiday away from the club in the hope everything could be resolved and/or swept under the carpet. The fact that nothing has changed in any respect to do with the WADA investigation really means that the removal of Hird from the coaching position cannot be related to that - if in fact Hird resigned and was not sacked as they would have us believe. From everything that has happened over this time period, it appears unlikely that Hird finally conceded and resigned, having gone so long refusing to do so. Surely he was sacked, but took the offer of 'resigning' to keep the face of the club clean.

And then Paul Little's statement. Well, a fresh start and a clean slate could have occurred two years ago if they had sacked Hird as coach and installed Mark Thompson (or anyone else) at that time. Then Hird would have been out of the loop of the media, and the same 'fresh start and clean slate' would have happened at that time, rather than two years later. It may not have improved the performances of the team this year, but at least their proactivity at that time would have been noted.

The players may well feel for Hird, and may well have wanted him to stay on as coach. They may have felt that he was the one man who was standing up for them and fighting for their position and future over the ASADA and then WADA investigations. All of those things may be true, but they miss the point of the initial breaking of this story so long ago. The point is that Hird had a Duty Of Car to the players, and that simply didn't happen under his watch, and he therefore had to be held accountable. It has taken two and a half years to have that acted upon.

Little should also have resigned yesterday, and completed the rout. The board's handling of this almost from day one has been abysmal, and not without some justification given the enormous circumstances and difficulty in dealing with individuals involved and how to approach a guilty or not guilty verdict in the long term. But tougher decisions needed to be made well before this point in time, and that has been observed all the way through, not just with hindsight. This day was always going to arrive, and the longer it has taken, the longer this has dragged on.

It won't be over yet, until WADA brings down its verdict, but the Essendon club could not afford to go into 2016 with the same people in charge of its team and risk losing yet another season to the mire of the drugs scandal, of which rightly or wrongly James Hird has been the face of. Both Hird and Little were correct in their statements, but it was the three lost seasons caused by their delay that has brought this to a head to day in order to save the future seasons.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Jason Day Wins the US PGA Championship!

An amazing finish by Jason Day, who has finally broken through to win his first Major championship, winning the US PGA in Wisconsin. After so many close calls and heartbreaking efforts, it was fantastic to see him win a much deserved Major tournament.
And how about Jordan Speith? He won the first two majors of the year in the US Masters and the US Open, and finished fourth at the The Open at St Andrews, and second here. He takes over the Number One position in the rankings from Rory McIlroy, while Day moves to third.

Watto is Back!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sport Returns - Diamonds Win the World Cup!

What a great effort from the Australian Diamonds today to once again win the World Cup, beating their arch rivals the Silver Ferns in the final. Having lost to New Zealand in the preliminary rounds  - their first loss in 21 straight matches - the Aussies put them to bed in a scintillating first quarter that helped them to lead 16-7. This was enough to ensure relative comfort throughout the remainder of the match and another famous victory.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Sport's Appeal Lacking Lustre

Sport hasn't been doing it for me lately, I can guarantee you that. If it's not bad enough that our cricketers have been completely blown away by a team the so-called experts believed were in tatters, the winter side of things isn't helping much either.

The AFL has come tumbling down again, leaving me with another finals series which means I won't have to worry about my blood pressure, but without a vested interest. Collingwood again managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, leading by 9 points in the final term against Sydney at the S.C.G, but unable to convert the chances they had to hold onto the game. It was their seventh loss in eight games, but in all of those they have been competitive against better opposition. It is obvious that they a lot of good kids coming through, but they just aren't at the level of these higher teams at the moment. Letting that game go on Friday night was a disappointment though. The Magpies had to win to make the finals, and their chances are now gone. So too are the likely finals aspirations of the Giants, who stayed with Port Adelaide until midway through the fourth quarter before being finished off. GWS still have an outside chance of making the playoffs, but will have to win all three of their finals games against Sydney, Carlton and Melbourne to do it, and hope other results go their way. After next weekend it probably won't matter.

The NRL hasn't mattered for some time. The Dragons loss to Brisbane has them walking a finals tightrope and possibly allowing Manly a lifeline, while the Eels played another 40 minute game on Saturday, leading the Roosters 18-4 at half time only to lose 28-18. The Eels lurch from disaster to disaster off the field, with Will Hopoate now taking them to court over 3rd party payments. Unless this is all solved ridiculously quickly, any progress the Eels have made in the past season and a half will be for nothing. Somehow the club has to deal with the ridiculous deals the previous board negotiated over the past three seasons, and clear out any misconception about their recruiting and payments. It should be done league-wide, but the Eels need to rid their club of the descending fog this is creating.

Once again, entirely predictably, the Wallabies failed to lift the Bledisloe Cup after falling to defeat at Eden Park (once again). The All Blacks rejoice for retaining the trophy for the 13th consecutive year - but really, what chance do you have to try and take it off the holders? With only two games being played each season, you only have to win your game at home to be assured of retaining the Cup. In the good old days you had the chance of a three Test series - all in your own country - to win the Bledisloe Cup. Now it is so heavily in favour of the holders that it becomes a task too far. Of course, this rule will probably only be changed if Australia ever happen to win the Cup back.

Iron Maiden - Speed Of Light (Official Video)

It's been a long wait, but finally the new Iron Maiden album is only a couple of weeks away.
The first single has been released, along with the video. Great stuff.
Up the Irons! \m/

Josh at Soccer

Josh played the penultimate game of his first season of soccer on the weekend for the Albion Park Under 8 Blacks. He is #10, and won the weekly "The Nut" trophy for the second consecutive week for his efforts.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Revisiting The X Files: S04 E18

S04E18: Max

Well Max made it back to us, but not in this episode. Mulder is, of course, caught as he swims to shore after witnessing the crashed UFO and pilot. Scully's efforts to save the one person who seems to know what actually happened are, of course, countermanded by those higher up the chain. Then we learn that Max was transporting alien technology but - surprise surprise - there is ANOTHER bag with part of the puzzle, which Mulder duly is able to snaffle.

Of course, this all comes to a screaming halt on yet another plane journey, where bad guy and object disappear, Mulder survives, but has no proof of anything that happened. Jumpin' jiminies, will nothing ever go right for these guys? Carry a damn camera! 4/5.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Revisiting The X Files: S04 E17

S04E17: Tempus Fugit

Max is back! All the way from 'Fallen Angel' in Season 1, he doesn't last to see much more action, after the plane he was on crashes, killing almost everyone on board. Still there are aliens afoot in many places as Mulder and Scully try to work out exactly what happened in the air above Northville in New York.

Was there one aircraft? Was there two? Was there an alien craft? Even Joe Spano's character Mike Millar comes to see the light (literally) in the UFO conspiracy theory taking place. Mulder even stumbles across yet another alien space ship crashed under water (why doesn't this man carry a camera with him?!?!) as the episode ends, leading us to a week long cliffhanger...    4/5

Two Halves Don't Make A Whole in NRL

As with the AFL with just four rounds to go, the top eight looks to be in a solid position, with only the final order of the teams to be determined, and a possible late challenge from Manly-Warringah to try and crash the finals party.

Three teams are still a chance to be crowned as minor premiers, with the possible repeat of last season where the Roosters won the title on for-and-against. Brisbane play Dragons at home, Roosters away, Rabbitohs away and Melbourne at home. North Queensland play Rabbitohs at home, Warriors away, Melbourne away and Gold Coast at home. Roosters play Parramatta at home, Brisbane at home, Manly away and Rabbitohs at home. None of those draws are easy, and it is hard to see any of those three teams winning all four games to ensure a minor premiership. The Roosters have the far superior percentage, but are a game behind the two Queensland teams, but also have three of those games at home. Home ground advantage for the finals goes to the top two teams, with the real possibility season front runners Brisbane could be squeezed out over the closing rounds. or perhaps that is just wishful thinking.

The final spot in the top four should go to the Rabbitohs, but it isn't a foregone conclusion. Rabbitohs play North Queensland away, Bulldogs at home, Brisbane at home and Roosters away. Cronulla play Melbourne at home, Tigers at home, Parramatta away and Manly at home. Melbourne play Cronulla away, Knights at home, North Queensland at home and Brisbane away. If percentage comes into play, then the Storm will slip in by the skin of their teeth. If Cronulla can best Melbourne this weekend, they then have the Tigers and the Eels following that, which may well play into their hands perfectly.

To make the final eight, Manly would have to win all four of their final games against Canberra (away), Parramatta (home), Roosters (home) and Cronulla (away), which is not an impossible task but a tough one. At this stage you would expect both the Dragons and Bulldogs to win three of their last four to cement their spots. Dragons play Brisbane (away), Penrith (home), Gold Coast (away) and Wests Tigers (home), while Bulldogs take on Gold Coast (home), Rabbitohs (away), Newcastle (away) and Warriors (home). Manly's best chance is for the Dragons to drop two of those games (a possibility) and for themselves to win three of their last four, with a high boost in their for-and-against (a possibility).

As for the rest... start looking at 2016.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

AFL Finals Picture Almost Complete

With four rounds to go in this season's AFL, it appears that the finals teams are pretty much set in stone (though the three teams on the periphery would like to think otherwise), with only the final positions and home finals set to be confirmed over the final rounds.

Fremantle's superb season has seen them now shoot ten points clear at the top of the table, surely ensuring the minor premiership is theirs. Their dominance will not only give them two home finals, but also should rule out any travel away from their home base during the finals series until the Grand Final should they progress. While the Melbourne-based contenders will continue to believe they can take the Dockers once the pressure games begin, Fremantle by virtue of their previous grand final experience must now be considered the favourite for the flag.

2nd placed West Coast have a tough run home, and their two point buffer over Hawthorn is likely to be tested. Facing Fremantle at home, Western Bulldogs at home, Adelaide away and then St Kilda at home, they will likely need to win at least three of those games to finish in second place. Hawthorn face nemesis side Geelong, but then Port Adelaide, Brisbane and Carlton, and would be likely to win all four of those matches. A betting man would think that the Hawks will finish second and get the home final against the Eagles, setting up a probable Dockers vs Eagles preliminary final, which would bust the seams of Patterson Stadium. Hawthorn would then get a likely prelim against the fourth placed team.

That fourth place is being fought between four teams, with percentage a real chance of playing a role in the final spot. Season surprise packet the Western Bulldogs face Melbourne, West Coast, North Melbourne and Brisbane, and while they should win against the two lower ranked teams, it will be the matches against West Coast in Perth and North Melbourne that will ultimately decide their fate. Their major opponents for the fourth spot is Sydney, who should defeat all of their four opponents in Collingwood, GWS, St Kilda and Gold Coast. On this basis you would expect Sydney to finish in fourth, setting up a huge clash with Fremantle in the first week of the finals.

North Melbourne face St Kilda, Fremantle, and Western Bulldogs and Richmond face Gold Coast, Collingwood and Essendon before they both meet in the final round. North Melbourne are the most vulnerable team here. While they may be eyeing an unlikely fourth spot, they could also quite easily miss out on the finals altogether if they were to lose two or more of those last four games.

The final spot in the eight is also open, though most likely to be fought out between Geelong and Adelaide. Geelong has Hawthorn, St Kilda and Collingwood, while Adelaide faces Essendon, Brisbane and West Coast, before these two as well play each other in the final round, in a match that on paper looks as though it will be the match to decide the final team in the finals.

For GWS, the dream to play finals football would likely take four victories in succession, and relying on both Geelong and Adelaide to lose at least one of their matches. It's a tough ask but not an impossible one, given they have Port Adelaide away, then the Swans at home, Carlton at home and Melbourne away. What appears more likely is that they will fall one win short of a maiden finals appearance, still a more than commendable achievement. Collingwood are a further game back, and would have to rely on two losses each by Geelong and Adelaide, and one loss for GWS, while winning all four of their matches against Sydney, Richmond, Geelong and Essendon. Not really even in the possible column that one.

The remaining teams are playing for pride after seasons that vary from average to ordinary to abysmal. No doubt the planning for 2016 has already begun in most of those teams, and players could well be fighting for their careers over the next four weeks. Certainly some coaches will be. 

Can Humiliation Change Australian Cricket Culture?

So once again, Australia will be without the Ashes for at least two and a half years, having only held them for eighteen months. The English cricket team are suddenly eyeing world domination again, the England fans can hold the gloating rights for an interminable length of time, and the English media and commentators will no doubt enjoy themselves over that period with glee. Once again as an Australian cricket supporter, we are faced with trying to ascertain how this could happen so quickly and decisively, and whether we have the ability to fight back from this humiliation and attempt to rebuild to the perceived dominance of just six weeks ago.

As was shown at both Cardiff and Edgbaston, England completely dominated in conditions that suited their team, which makes it even more unimaginable the wicket that was served up at Lords. Some may suggest that winning the toss was beneficial at Trent Bridge, but such was the decimation of the Australian batting line up, and the ineptness of its bowling line up in the same conditions - indeed, in the same session - that it is difficult to see that the result would have been any different.

The first session of this Test has probably only been matched in recent memory to another Australian collapse at Edgbaston in the 1st Test of 1997, when Australia was rolled for 118 and lost by 9 wickets (??). At least in that Test, Australia made England bat again through a gutsy revival led by Mark Taylor and Greg Blewett. At Trent Bridge in 2015, Dave Warner and Chris Rogers rode their luck to 0/113, but once one fell it was like a house of cards once again.

England must be given their due. They used the conditions magnificently. Chris Broad on the first morning had the ball on a five cent piece, and allowing the rickety techniques of the Australian batsmen to implement their own downfall. In the second innings it was the turn of Ben Stokes, who was a basket case with bat and ball 12 months ago, and now proclaimed the Next Botham after his six wicket performance with a brilliant display of swing and seam bowling. Then the batsmen led by Root, Bairstow and Cook tamed the conditions and took advantage of the less than stellar bowling from the Australians to dominate. It was almost the perfect Test match by England, though even they in their wildest dreams could not have thought what happened in the first session of the match could occur. From start to finish, it took just 32 days for Australia to relinquish the Ashes that few thought they would lose their grip on so soon or so easily.

England are joyous and rightly so. The drawn series against the West Indies and New Zealand have been forgotten in the euphoria of destroying Australia. Whatever the result is at The Oval next week, they have the Ashes and will go forward with confidence. That's not to say they will succeed. A trip to South Africa at the end of the year holds all the same dangers as did the Australian trip in 2013/14. They will rejoice in Cook's captaincy and subjective form with the bat. Joe Root is the number one (rated) batsman in Test cricket. Jonny Bairstow has returned with runs. Ben Stokes is a dangerous and competitive all rounder. Anderson and Broad still have it. Mark Wood looks an up-and-comer. What can go wrong in the climb up the Test rankings ladder? Quite a bit, given there are still some of their team holding on for the ride. But there's no need to address that until after The Oval.

Australia have little room to move within the squad that has been chosen and failed. The top three are all averaging over 40 for the series, which belies Smith's six innings apart from his Lords run-fest. Michael Clarke makes one final appearance in the baggy green having announced his retirement following the Trent Bridge massacre, and will be hoping to find anything to go out with runs and as a winner. Adam Voges visited the Dean Jones Saloon, his 51 not out likely to extend his Test career at least until The Oval, while Shaun Marsh's continued excellence in warm up games was followed by his continued failure at Test level. The choice for The Oval for the last spot in the top six will fall between Shaun Marsh, his brother Mitch Marsh... and yes... the possibility of a return for Shane Watson. If the future is in the eyes of the selectors then only one of those three should be considered.

The bowling doesn't open up a hell of a lot more options. Most commentators felt that if the selectors were not going to consider Peter Siddle for the seaming paradise of Trent Bridge then his career was over. The only other seamer in the squad is Pat Cummins, whose lack of long form cricket in his career is a stumbling block to selection. The outsider is Fawad Ahmed, still patiently awaiting his chance at the top level. If The Oval wicket is a typically flat and dry one then perhaps he'll get that chance at the expense of a seamer and the inclusion of Mitch Marsh as the third seamer. With Australia's next destination being Bangladesh, then surely this would be a proactive move. If the wicket has been spiced up then this would be less likely to occur.

With a dead Test match, followed by some unexcitable one day and Twenty20 matches to come, the winter of cricket viewing in Australia will now likely drop to almost negligible levels as the finals in both AFL and NRL take precedence over the shambles of the nation's cricket team. More is the pity given the good exposure thus far. Whether or not the team can regain lost ground with its supporters in that time all comes down to how they present themselves in the final Test of the summer.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Two Hours on Facebook to Describe A Wretched Test

As Richie would say - "Australia... not an impossible task but pretty fuckin' close to it... !!"
Posted by The 12th Man on Thursday, 6 August 2015

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Revisiting The X Files: S04 E16: Unrequited

S04E16: Unrequited

More soldiers killing superiors in this episode, which seems to have been a semi-regular occurrence throughout the X Files. Here though we have old mate Teager who seems to have the ability to disappear in plain view, which makes it quite difficult for him to be caught. Having disposed of a couple of victims, Mulder eventually comes to the conclusion that he has gained the ability to make himself a blind spot, which is not as good as invisibility, but pretty damn handy when you want to slip away virtually unnoticed.

The part of the story regarding POWs in Vietnam still being alive but ignored by the government seems to be casually swept under the carpet at the important parts of the episode.  3.5/5