Frood’s Fun Friday Facts: Star Wars: Return of The Jedi

Dr Frood is minding his own business one day when he comes across a random, doubtless apocryphal bit of trivia that titillates his mental tastebuds: when casting around for a director for Return of the Jedi, future Star Wars persona non grata George Lucas decided that he really, absolutely definitely wanted his film to be directed by none other than David Lynch.

No, really.

David Lynch, director of dreamlike, surrealist creep-fest Eraserhead. David Lynch, whose various artworks (movies, music, paintings etc) specialise in being disturbing, offending and confusing in equal measure. David Lynch, who looks like he’d be happiest hanging around Dalston after dark eating people’s souls.

Directing Star Wars.

Chances are his film wouldn’t have been wildly different from Richard Marquand’s. So at best this is a mildly diverting factoid. Maybe so, but here at Frood we prefer to go a little…more obvious.

So here’s how we like to think David Lynch’s (18 rated) ROTJ would’ve turned out:

We have the same score that we know and love, albeit done in the signature style of Twin Peaks. With Julee Cruise on breathy vocals.

The scenes in Jabba the Hutt’s palace would have had more of an undertone of sexual violence and body horror (with puppets!) under a veneer of middle class respectability; Blue Velvet meets Jim Henson. One shudders to imagine the pit of the mighty sarlacc (hole in the ground with teeth and tentacles that Jabba wants to throw Han, Chewie and Luke into).

So one shan’t imagine the pit of the mighty sarlacc.

This eventually leads us to the weirdy dream logic of Luke reuniting with Yoda and learning the truth about daddy while Roy Orbison sings in the background and because we haven’t rammed in enough references to Blue Velvet, Luke finds a severed ear.

Remember Admiral Ackbar? He would probably have been redone in the vein of the pallid leather-daddies from the Spacing Guild in Dune, with the same horrifying vocals. The visual similarity to the Emperor would no doubt remind us that today’s freedom-fighter underdog is tomorrow’s brutal totalitarian regime. It’s a trap indeed.

The Ewoks would all be called Bob, have always been dancing, slowly and slightly off the beat. They’d have had regular human voices, but played at half speed with a touch of reverb. They’d have been seen eating human meat at least once. They probably shouldn’t have survived the movie in any event, so let’s just assume that Lynch would have given them psychic gifts/magic/messing with your head while you’re dreaming powers/lesser demonic entities.

Finally, when the Emperor is doing his old electricity trick (can’t mess with a classic) on Luke, Luke and Darth Vader both stand, start singing ‘In Heaven’ in unison, holding hands, while Jedi mind-controlling the Emperor into happily throwing himself to his own death. Meanwhile, back on Endor, Leia would sing along while sitting in the middle of the scorched, bloody remains of the battle.

Oh, and one of Luke or Han would’ve been recast with Kyle MacLachlan.
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I would absolutely watch all of Sting’s scenes from Dune again on a loop if it meant I could see that version of ROTJ.

Scriptwriter’s Guide to the UK General Election

Hi Tim, you’d better come in. Look, we need to talk about this bloody Westminster drama. Again. What the bloody hell have you been doing? It’s nearly the end of the season, numbers should be growing but the ratings are more alarming than my blood pressure. Look at this review in the Sunday Times: one-dimensional characters, unbelievable plots.

Look, I get that you did what you could with David – we saw the caring, touchy feely bollocks wasn’t working so you changed tack. The thing is, though, all you did was bump up the backstory. Yes, he went to Eton, I get it. So what? And what’s the story arc with Osborne? You’ve had 5 years and all you’ve done is have him change his haircut and lose some weight. Who is he? What does he feel?  What does he care about? I’ve been watching him for years and I don’t have the faintest clue. And those are the Tories you’ve bothered to develop. IDS: is he…what? Comic relief? Antagonist? Voice of reason trapped in the wilderness of public opinion? At least Chris Grayling has the decency to have malevolent eyes.

Point being, these guys can’t hold a candle to Michael Gove – you really dropped him from the regular cast far too soon. I said that at the time, didn’t I, Tim? What’s that, I can’t hear you? Yes I did, that’s right, Tim. You need a villain you can really get into; didn’t you ever see Michael Howard chewing the scenery? He was fabulous.

Look, I know you’re the creative one, and I’m just some suit, but I do own a TV, Tim, and I’ve been in this industry for decades. You should take my advice occasionally.

Talking of, what about these Lib Dems, Tim? Whatshisface with the sad eyes, I thought he had real potential – optimistic young naïf, idealist thrust into government, basically kneecapped by power. He could have been a way in for the audience.  We should have a sense of tragedy, y’know, some really gripping drama. You’ve really dropped the ball on that one. And which bell-end in wardrobe thought that yellow was a good idea? Or was that in the script? Was that you, Tim? I get it, yellow = cowardly; is that really the level we’re working at? Even Avatar was more sophisticated than that. I’ll give you Vince Cable: he’s pretty fun.

And can we please give over on fucking Trident, already. I didn’t give you a platform just so you could air your views on nuclear weapons ad infin-fucking-itum.

Sorry, I’m getting angry. Look Tim, I know you’re doing your best under difficult circumstances, but we couldn’t continue to support the writing room; we needed the warm bodies for Sherlock. Yeah, Cumberbatch said he’s up for it as long as Freeman drops all that diva shit. I was pleased too.

Anyway, we’re getting sidetracked. Labour isn’t working – that line was a doozy.. Christ I miss the old days… First up: Ed. I told you, didn’t I, work him in gently. But no, you just had to bump him straight up to the regular cast, like: here’s another Baratheon brother wants the iron throne. Tell me you’ve seen Game of Thrones. You haven’t? Jesus wept… Anyway, that whole fratricidal maniac plot was solid. Tim, I thought you really had something there even if you obviously ripped it off from GOT. But what have you done with him since? 2 kitchens, can’t eat bacon, where’s the growth? Where’s the heart?

Just a void, an adenoidal void.

Ed Balls. That was just cheap, Tim – Balls-up, Balls in your face, it’s a cock and Ed Balls story. You’re better than that, Tim.  Which reminds me: Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP. You did the same thing, didn’t you? Nicola’s here to shake up the plaice, Nicola: what are you carping on about? Don’t be so koi, Nicola – Nicola, do you need some time to mullet over?  Frankly Tim, I’m amazed you thought puns was the way to right the ship.  She’s not even running for Westminster – Alex Salmond is – so why are you giving her so much camera time?

What do we have left? Oh yes, the new blood. UKIP, the Greens.  We agreed last time that things were getting stale so we needed to inject a bit of oomph. But no – just more underdeveloped, half-baked characters. Maybe in Farage’s case that should be ‘half-cut’.  I tell you what, he’s very watchable, the casting director saved your bacon on that one, because the lines you’ve given him… beggars belief.

I guess what I’m trying to say is… This is surprisingly difficult.

I’m sorry, there’s nothing for it. The decision’s been made – we’re cancelling. To be honest, I’m not sure the network’s even willing to broadcast the end of the season. We can fill the slot with Great British Bake-off re-runs until we can come up with something, maybe with Jeremy Clarkson. Although God only knows how much he’s gonna’ cost.

Look Tim, we’ve had a good run, but you really jumped the shark with that whole Coalition plot. Frankly I’m surprised we lasted this long when the writing on the wall was that clear. Anyway, I thought you should know – the director’s aware and he and a couple of the producers are ringing around the cast. It’s a damn shame; I really thought we could have created some solid entertainment.

Oh, and Tim? You’re fired.

Book Challenge 2: The Bookening

The Rules:

  1. Pick a book you love and want others to read
  2. Write something along the lines of ‘Hello, I’m a book, please read me and when you’re done write your name on the back page and give me to someone else to read’
  3.  Leave the book somewhere conspicuous and walk away

I’ve suggested that people write their names on the back page simply because that way everyone has the option of imagining the book’s journey and wondering about its previous owners, which is a silly but hopefully rather pleasant way to pass 5 minutes.  Besides which, we could all do with a bit of a mystery from time to time.

In other words, while the last book challenge was about kindness, this one is about whimsy and naivety, because the world could do with a bit more of both.
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Some time ago a piece I wrote about a book was Freshly Pressed by WordPress – showcased on their webpage of the same name, thereby attracting a few more readers to the blog. I, by now drunk on the untold power of reaching a vanishingly small number of people, chose to abuse said power by testing my newfound followers.

Accordingly, I issued a book challenge, which was inspired by a couple of experiences you can read about here. The challenge was simple: pick a book, find a stranger and convince the stranger to take the book on the basis that doing something nice without the likelihood of getting anything in return brightens up everybody’s day without being all karmic vegan hippy about things.

For me it was easier said than done. In part this was because the morning commute is hardly a demonstration of the social instincts of humanity but mainly because whenever I’m spoken to by someone I don’t know I have to fight the urge to shout ‘stranger danger’ and run away shrieking like a banshee mid-coitus. As you can imagine this makes job interviews a bit tricky. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not antisocial, just a bit childish (you can find more evidence of this here, here and here).

A few people took up the challenge, but although I’d intended it to be a thing – yeah Frood, he’s the guy who gives people reading material – I never did it again. So I went back to the drawing board and refined the challenge. The plan now is just to leave the odd book lying around with an introduction outlining the challenge and directing whoever picks up the book to this blog so that if the mood takes them they can complain about my littering or call me an epithet.

First up to be sent out into the world seeking fame and fortune will be In Love by Alfred Hayes, which is a spectacular little novel about heartbreak that I probably won’t read again.

I expect that it’ll probably end up in the bin, but for once I’m going abandon my usual cynicism: it’s definitely going to be found, adopted and adored, it’s absolutely going to make someone’s day, if only because when did you last get something for nothing?

And if you out there in internetland fancy taking up either book challenge, please, I’d love to hear all about it.

Alcoholics Guide To The World Cup – Group H

Tim from Advertising: Pele, we’ve got a great opportunity for you – erectile dysfunction.
Pele: I actually prefer to be known as Edson, which is my name. I was named after Thomas Edison.
TFA: The guy who invented Twitter? No that can’t be right, but the name rings a bell…
Pele: An Alexander Graham Bell?
TFA: Didn’t he used to play for Manchester United*?
Pele: Thomas Edison?
TFA: No, Bell – struggling to place Edison.
Pele (sighing): Look, it doesn’t matter, just call me Pele.
TFA: Great! Listen, Pelz, like I said, we want to make you the face of erectile dysfunction.
Pele: But that makes no sense, if anything I need anti-viagra. Did you know that I scored over a thousand career goals and for every single one I sported at least a semi? When I scored the opener in the 1970 final I had a rager that actually ripped straight through my underpants.
TFA: I have no response to that. But we’ll pay you a shit ton of cash, and I tell you what, we can shoehorn in an awkward bit at the start along the lines of “I don’t have willy problems of my own, but lots of you fat knackers who watch telly do.”
Pele: A shit ton of cash you say? I think I can see the logic in this campaign.
TFA: Thanks Pele, you’re great. And can I say I’m a huge fan, huge fan – watching old footage of you winning the World Cup for Norwich really gets me going. Or it would if I didn’t suffer from erectile dysfunction, which is ironic because I’m a total dick! Ha, hashtag SelfBantz.
Pele: I’m pretty sure that’s not what irony means. But yes, I hope you die soon.

*Actually true, just not the same Alex Bell.

Algeria

The plan was to wait until the second round and then write off the chances of the two teams who qualified as no-hopers. To be fair, most of my stabs at humour are even less sharp than that.

And then I contracted some sort of flesh-eating zombie virus so even that abortive idea was…aborted.

Also, going into the World Cup, Group H looked to be a sclerotic clone of Group G with three teams realistically likely to scrap for scraps after the big dog (Belgium and Germany respectively) had its fill.

So…

On a personal note, what I’ve learned over the past week is that one brain is too many and two brains are not enough.

Uuuuuummmm…

If you’d put a gun to my head I’d have said “please remove that gun from my head” – they love that one down the old people’s home – and then written off Algeria without a thought. To be fair to me, Algeria’s biggest impact at the World Cup came before I was even a drunken mistake by my parents, in 1982 when West Germany and Austria conspired to game the system in their final, dammit…, game, unashamedly playing for a result that saw them both qualify at Algeria’s expense.

But let’s look deeper at 1982. It was Algeria’s (be gentle it’s my) first time at the World Cup and they caused a shock upset, beating West Germany 2-1 in their first match. They were inexperienced but exciting and the world fell in love with them for a time, for their dynamism and style and the sense that real life is often far more absurd than fiction, which has to follow rules.

Absurdity of real life aside, 32 years later Algeria have again played with panache and élan and all those nobby words beloved of opera aficionados. This time they reached the second round where they were given an opportunity for revenge against Germany, with predictable results.

No drink – antibiotics. Also, it makes you crave brains.

Belgium

The vagaries of fashion are well-known – today’s sharply dressed man about town is tomorrow’s embarrassing photograph. Currently, Belgians are the must have accessory for clubs who seek the chic.

Consequently, the Belgian Waffles came into the tournament being talked up as a potential dark horse, despite the fact that a dark horse, by definition, is a team whose qualities only become apparent when they turn up out of nowhere and go far further in the competition than anyone considered remotely likely. Costa Rica, for example.

After spitting out that bitchy wad of phlegm, which you blame on the ludicrously strong beer brewed by Belgian monks that can only be sold by the half-pint that you’ve been drinking like the kool aid at that strange cult you joined in a misguided effort to make new friends, here’s your position:

Trashy B-movie action heroes Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel will star in Escape From Group H. Captain “Two’s” Kompany and goalkeeper Cortois are world class, and galloping foetus Januzaj has all the potential in the world.

But beyond that Belgium has a surfeit of ‘names’: players you’ve heard of who look excellent for less-than-top-level clubs or who play relatively minor roles at clubs you’ve heard of. Striker Benteke (Aston Villa) didn’t make it in the end, leaving the team reliant on season-long-loan’s Romelu Lukaku AKA the polyester Drogba. See also: Mirallas, Dembele, Vermaelen.

Kevin “Teenage Prince Harry” De Bruyne left a minor squad role at Chelsea to star reluctantly in next season’s Europa League fixtures with VFL Wolfsburg; Marouane “Disco Lurch” Fellaini looked even more out of his depth at Manchester United than we all assumed he would be.

But they’ve been handed a pampers group and a likely second round game against the American Pancakes*. Also, what Belgium has that almost no one else does is a range of far better than average players in most positions, with a few extraordinary ones. And Disco Lurch.

In other words, a squad with depth and balance that is capable of defending as well as attacking. The golden generation might even take bronze.

PS: Divock Origi has been a real pleasure and that rarest of things for the online generation – a relatively unknown player exploding onto the international stage.

*In the spirit of full disclosure, I genuinely did predict they’d face the USA, but only so I could consider the merits of Belgian waffles vs American pancakes. Waffles won but only because I prefer thinner crepe-style pancakes, which is technically match-fixing so I’ve shopped myself to FIFA.

Russia

The plan was to wait until the second round and then write off the chances of the two teams who qualified as no-hopers. To be fair, most of my attempts at humour are even less attempt-ey than that.

Russia’s star man(ager) is/was/remains martinet marionette Fabio Capello, whose CV is so glittering footballers wives fight magpies for the privilege of touching it. Don Fabio chucked the likes of Arshavin and Pavluychenko on the basis that whatever talents they might possess, consistency and work ethic didn’t number among them.

Russia qualified for the tournament for the first time in twelve years with a team that was functional if not all that exciting. Kind of like the vodka you’re pretending to enjoy while surreptitiously looking around for a mixer.

Having qualified and facing a pretty doable group, Capello took a blunderbuss to a butterfly with the English mentality at the last World Cup and proceeded to do the same with his Russian charges this time round. Einstein famously said that the definition of insanity was being insane, but also that locking away professional sportspeople in an isolated, high pressure environment for extended periods of time and expecting them to perform at their best is pretty nuts too, especially when it didn’t work last time.

Hands up: I expected them to qualify (just about) for the second round before being humiliated by Germany. Because of what Einstein said. He had a bet on it.

Maybe not such a genius, after all.

South Korea

The plan was to wait until the second round and then write off the chances of the two teams who qualified as no-hopers. To be fair most of my how many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb? Fish.

The alternative would’ve been to do some research. I’ve not kept up with South Korea since Park Ji Sung retired from international football, but every time I tried to crank up the internet I found myself on Youtube watching K-Pop videos.

K-Pop, as you might imagine, is Korean pop music. A couple of years ago it briefly threatened to be the next big thing, especially for parents who wanted their kids to have something to listen to that didn’t involve ‘hos, rim jobs or generally worrying attitudes to women. I highly recommend giving it a whirl: it’s basically a mash-up of the West’s entire pop canon injected with neon and high fructose corn syrup. That’s not a criticism – most musical forms start life as a twist on something familiar.

If I were a parent (and world leaders continue to thank me for not breeding) I’d definitely encourage my kids to listen to K-Pop if only because they won’t understand the lyrics. Hell all of Girls Generation’s songs could be a series of meditations on the joys of doing porn to get back at daddy and my kids and I would be none the wiser.

South Korea’s teams tend to play with a lot of energy, efficiency and enthusiasm. If that all sounds like a euphemism it’s because they’ve played in the last eight World Cups but only made it beyond the group stages twice. In 2006 or 2010 they didn’t even threaten to trouble the latter stages of the competition.

In the run-up the squad was generally described as in transition, which is usually itself a euphemism meaning “about as likely to have a lasting impact as Eat, Love, Pray”, but in this case was more likely the bookies admitting they hadn’t really got a clue about the group apart from Belgium. In fact, Group H offered a pretty good opportunity for South Korea to improve on their record (no one really saw Algeria coming), but it wasn’t to be.

Not to worry, pour yourself a measure of soju – like vodka, but sweeter and weaker so your doctor is legally obliged to approve – big up the volume on Gangnam Style and re-watch the highlights of their run to the 2002 World Cup semi-finals.

Or give Wimbledon a go; they let you drink Pimms at Wimbledon and you don’t even have to feel ashamed of yourself or nuffin’.
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So there you have it, the Alcoholics Guide to the World Cup. You’re welcome, internet. And if we sober up in time there may well be supplementary Guides to the semi-finals, play-off and final.

But if not, time for some final thoughts: sorry Spain, those pink and blue Puma boots are a travesty, I heart the Netherlands, Pirlo retires from retiring, Germany have actually been a bit pants, what’s with all the hairstyles, Zico’s lot would’ve pulverised Neymar and co, did all the decent central defenders go out together in a blaze of glory suicide pact but forget to tell Kompany, so glad the England band weren’t at any of their games, Arjen Robben, what side of whose bed did Honduras crawl out of, Team USA vs Belgium was my pick for game of the second round, who switched Angel Di Maria with an evil twin with no hand-eye coordination, Arjen Robben, did anyone else notice that Spain wore different kits for each of their three matches, I still love you Cristiano Ronaldo, shame Chile had to go out so soon, so glad there are no vuvuzelas, Costa Rica!!!, Neuer’s a better sweeper-keeper than Higuita ever was, Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller, Alexis Sanchez, Divock Origi, Arjen Robben, James Rodriguez, BEST TOURNAMENT IN YEARS (so far).

Thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams about the tournament so far: feel free to share; in the words of Dr Frasier Crane, I’m listening.

Arjen Robben.

Alcoholics Guide To The World Cup – Group G

That British media, eh? First the FIFA corruption allegations now the concerted attacks on Luis Suarez, fresh from another controversy of his own making. That there does appear to be evidence of corruption and that there are photographs showing what appear to be teeth marks on Chiellini’s shoulder are neither here nor there; we’re just embittered troublemakers. As Uruguay’s manager Oscar Tabarez had it, this is a World Cup. It’s not about morality.

Now we’re not about to make a sanctimonious plea for ethical play (although the British do hate cheating in football except when we’re doing it). After all, as George Orwell put it, football is a game in which everyone gets hurt and every nation has its own style of play which seems unfair to foreigners. But this ain’t exactly the striker’s first Hannibal Lecter impression and he clearly hasn’t responded to past punishments.

So the question on our lips today: should the serial recidivist be banned for crimes against corn flakes? It’s a chewy question, after all this is his 3rd on-pitch biting incident, possibly because of low blood sugar. But probably not. On the other hand the World Cup powers-that-be are notorious for seeming to defer difficult decisions relating to star players (because it needs those star players to be, y’know, playing); to quote A Few Good Men, “the tooth? You can’t handle the tooth”. On balance, Suarez is extremely talented but, euphemistically speaking, seems a touch flawed; kind of like Wagner without the anti-Semitism.

Anyway, food for thought.

As we approach the end of the group stage we enter a time for reflection. Forests become desert, young love withers and fades away, bands split amid ego and recrimination, kings are deposed; empires crumble and fall into the sea.

I’m talking of course about Jeremy Paxman retiring from Newsnight. But also Spain being dumped out of the World Cup last night (when I wrote this bit) after losing to Chile, because that happened too.

Plenty of people are out there cackling with schadenfreude, pretending like they hated Spain before it became popular, rather than simply jumping on the bandwagon (late) sometime after Euro 2012.

Of the remaining favourites, Argentina has an underbelly softer than brie in a microwave and Brazil has struggled considerably more than you probably expected.

And then there’s Germany.

It’s quite hard for me to write about ‘the old enemy’ Germany because the secret truth is that I am head over heels, blind, punchdrunk, singing in the rain, haven’t felt this way since I first saw Salma Hayek in Dusk ‘til Dawn batshit crazy in love with this Germany team.

It did sting when they tore England apart in the second round of World Cup 2010, mind.

Germany

Never saw you looking so lovely as you did tonight, I’ve never seen you shine so brightly as you did tonight… Maybe it’s in the way that Muller looks like a fan in a replica shirt rather than a professional footballer, maybe it’s in the way that Germany 2.0 (2010-) replaced the stolid Teutonic Rammstein of old with something much more hip, willowy and zippy, like an oddly coiffed laser.

Perhaps it’s the cavalier way that the only ‘proper’ striker they brought with them this time around is record equalling goal wizard and all-round Methuselah, Miraslov ‘the closer’ Klose.

Speaking of wizards, do you remember Captain Marvel? Mario Gotze Billy Batson was a typical pants-wetting 8 year old boy until he hung out with an octogenarian who promised to show him a magic trick. This was decades before anyone had noticed that ‘stranger’ and ‘danger’ rhyme, so apparently it was alright to create a comic that appeared to encourage young children to pass their time unsupervised with much older men who weren’t related to them. Also, Mesut Ozil looks a bit like Freddy Freeman.

So it’s clear, some spectacularly stupid, utterly irresponsible and probably unhinged wizard who clearly knew nothing of the egomania and proclivities of the average 8 year old gave the Germany players godlike superpowers when they were wee bairns.

Or alternatively, the country has invested time and money into creating and properly funding a nationwide string of footballing academies employing a large number of highly qualified, enthusiastic young coaches dedicated to churning out tactically aware, technically gifted players and then giving said players opportunities to play in Bundesliga first teams.

And naturalising players before they could turn out for anyone else.

Or maybe they were all synthesised in a laboratory out of a mix of DNA from hair and skin samples of former greats.

Love is blind of course – the team is no less fallible than any other, they’ve not actually won anything yet to justify their lofty status, and Ghana held them to a draw. To quote Jean-Paul Sartre, in a football match, everything is complicated by the presence of the other team.

Still, if they don’t qualify from the group and magic away their second round opponent with contemptuous ease, Joachim Low should probably eat one of his natty jumpers.

Beer. Next.

Ghana

The difference between Disney movies and real life is that real life is only unintentionally cruel.

Even before the World Cup kicked off this seemed to be one of the tighter groups. If not quite a group of death, Ghana and the USA – two tough to beat teams who have improved significantly over recent years – were to face arguably the strongest squad and the best (form) player in the world. And going into the final match, results are finely balanced, with all teams still capable of qualifying.

The self-styled ‘African Brazil’ was one of the surprise packages at the last World Cup, the team winning hearts and minds a-plenty until it ran into sportsmanship’s Luis Suarez in the quarters. One fluffed penalty and inappropriate Suarez celebration later and Ghana were out.

Of course that was 4 years ago; Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight suggested that either you die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

And sure enough the Black Stars have seen their reputation take a hit since their last game, a well-deserved draw against Germany. Their preparations for a showdown against Cristiano Ronaldo were slightly derailed by suspensions for Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng, following allegations of physical violence and verbal naughtiness respectively.

Predictably enough, the background is a slightly tawdry row about money. Following the lead of France in 2010, the players threatened a strike earlier this week. This in turn saw a plane hastily chartered, loaded with cash and flown to Brazil. But the fallout has left Ghana short of 2 of its more experienced midfielders, who might have been expected to make the difference.

One suspects the boys could have done with a hot stone massage, maybe a mani-pedi, something to soothe their aching bosoms; a cocktail at the very least. After all, Ghana has enjoyed a boozy renaissance of late, with traditional liquors being brought into the 1990s – akpeteshie replaces rum for homegrown twists on caiprinhas and mojitos.

You’re not even sure they are a ‘self-styled African Brazil’, but it sounds good. Easy on the mixers in that drink.

With Germany and Team USA in the driving seat for qualification, and Cristiano Ronaldo desperate to make an impact on the World Cup, my prediction is that this is the end of the road for Ghana and its fallen stars.

Portugal

Port + regular size wineglass + Cristiano Ronaldo = classy.

USA

By reputation, the American people have an insatiable appetite for sport, or at least for watching it on the TV while shovelling cheese into their mouths and going on about how exceptional they are at stuff.

You’ll appreciate what I did with that last bit.

Plenty of – actually mildly offensive – reasons are given for this. They basically boil down to:

“there are already too many sports to keep up with, and Americans are easily bored and don’t like rooting for the underdog, especially when that underdog is their own team.”

Team USA has tended to focus on stout defending and sucker-punch counterattacking, offering little in the way of jinking, mazy runs to get furiously excited about or sneaky digs and diving to get excitedly furious about. For the past decade or so their big superstar has been Landon “Not Jason” Donovan, a man who not only redefines beige but who has never once appeared on Neighbours.

And you’d be forgiven for thinking that that sounds about as much fun as a teetotal stag do.

But the chronically underappreciated side have ditched Donovan and turned up sporting a flamboyant little number in red, white and blue. Their opening game ended on a thrilling note, a flurry of very late goals seeing them nail 3 points on the board. The follow-up 2-2 draw against Cristiano Ronaldo saw a dominant US on course for the win until the 94th minute, Tim Howard making possibly the best save of the tournament.

Jurgen ‘I believe it might be a soft j’ Klinsmann deserves a lot of credit for injecting the confidence into the side to play with a little flair – although the team typically expects to do well in the group stages, they’ve occasionally seemed overawed by more lauded nations. And people are starting to take notice ahead of the group’s denouement: Hulk Hogan Hulkomaniac-ing the internet to talk up ‘The men’s USA soccer team’, making mildly homoerotic comments about them ‘pounding’ the Germans.

Meanwhile Will Ferrell confirmed at an appearance in Recife that he will be playing and fully intends to bite any Germany players he comes across.

But too much excitement isn’t good for the nerves, so follow the lead of the American Midwest and sanctimoniously eschew anything alcoholic in favour of a glass of slightly below room temperature water. You save your drinking for when you’re alone.

Clint Dempsey is apparently going to release a rap album.

Ok, maybe just one drink then.

What do you call someone else’s cheese? Nacho cheese.

Better make that a double.

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Next time on Frood: Group H’s Algeria, Belgium, Russia and South Korea fight it out to see who gets to avoid Germany in the next round. And speaking of Uruguay, here’s Albert Camus: All that I know most surely about morality and obligations I owe to football. Exactly Tabarez, exactly.

Alcoholics Guide To The World Cup – Group F

Dear Mother, sorry this is late and that I didn’t finish the group write-ups before the World Cup started. Please don’t kick me out again or throw out any more of my things; I’m still trying to get over the loss of my Thomas the Tank Engine bedspread.

Incidentally, you may recall our write-up of Group B suggested that you support the Netherlands and denounce Spain. Your new football friends were doubtless impressed at your counterintuitive (and therefore deep) knowledge of the game of foot.

You’re welcome.

Argentina

All nations at the World Cup have their Platonic ideal of a footballer; a mythological being who embodies the nation’s prejudices, fears, personality, needs and desires.

Despite being Argentina’s captain, star player and a bona fide candidate for greatest player of all time, Lionel Messi is not that player.

For Argentina, the ideal is a goblin-faced, mullet-haired, sleazy street urchin of superlative skill and tremendous appetites. A ballerina-cum-bar-room-brawler who’s kicked, bitten and fought to the top. Someone who will dazzle their way through the opposition like they’re so many groupies one minute and punch a ball into the goal the next. Then celebrate by snorting cocaine off your mother’s navel and doing the bad thing with your girlfriend.

Metaphorically speaking.

Madonna in 1986 was the blueprint, dragging a frankly desultory team to the trophy with performances of Like A Virgin and Hand Of God. My girlfriend reckons she’s never had better, which really helps my self-esteem.

So as we were saying, Messi does not embody Argentina like, say, Garrincha embodied Brazil, or like Carlos Tevez embodies Argentina (except for the coke/mum thing). The Barcelona darling has never quite translated his club level dominance to the national team.

Notwithstanding that he never refused to warm up for Argentina because he didn’t think he should have been a substitute in the first place, Tevez has almost invariably performed equally well for club and country. This alone must make his exclusion from the squad all the more heart-warming for fans of professionalism.

But none of the above really matters, because it just means that Argentina have to make do with a player in Messi who’s more or less the best in the world as opposed to a player who might be the best of all time (or at least make the top 3).

Also, Argentina has a strike-force more stocked than a hypochondriac’s medicine cabinet, with players of the calibre of Lavezzi and Palacio’s rat-tail relegated to the bench. Messi, Aguero, Higuain, with Di Maria and Gago in midfield, hope to paper over the defensive cracks (Romero in goal, Demichelis on the pitch generally).

To be fair, defensive weakness appears to be a feature of pretty much all of the teams at the tournament this year, perhaps why it’s proving to be a vintage competition.

Argentina numbers among the favourites for a reason and you don’t want to waste your hangover on plonk. Crack out a bottle of malbec for the consistency of quality, rich tannins and way it complements a plate of meat with chimichurri on the side.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia’s team is a charmingly disheveled, tactically naïve side that tends to bomb around the place like a cheerfully demented cocker spaniel. When they get really excited, which is every time the doorbell rings, they tend to lose bladder control all over the floor you just mopped. One for the neutrals, then.

The Dragons’ relatively undisciplined, attacking focus is something of a necessity given that centre backs Spahic and Bicakcic lack anything resembling pace and the squad has no natural defensive midfielder, meaning that they will have to rely on scoring more goals than the opposition. Even a genuine top level goalkeeper like Stoke’s Asmir Begovic can’t be expected to keep a clean floor sheet by himself.

Fortunately, in general terms the winner of a game of football is the one that registers more goal scores.

Unfortunately their opening game is (was…) against Argentina, and all due respect to the most dragon-y of the Dragons (Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko), it’s a mug’s game trying to go toe to toe with Argentina for racking up the goal scores.

You had a crack at making some home-made plum brandy, hence why you’re on the Turkish coffee, unsurprisingly rather popular in Bosnia. You’re hoping that the ćevapi will also help.

At least the brandy didn’t make you blind.

Iran

One night back in the ’60s the band Cream was on stage improvising some self-indulgent meandering madness when some unknown, random American dude with a killer ‘fro asked to sit in. He plugged a guitar into a bass amp and fretwanked the living daylights out of an old blues number called Killing Floor. His name was Jimi Hendrix.

The moral of the story is just because no one knows you doesn’t mean you’re no good. And please, no double negatives. Obscure Loaded Weapon 1 reference for you there.

That being said, Monday’s dour 0-0 draw against an unambitious Nigeria suggests that Jimi Hendrix might not be the best of comparisons to make.

Even after watching the game, I know absolutely nothing about Iran save that manager Carlos Quieroz seems to have come to the World Cup dressed up as a 1970s sex symbol. Which must be unsettling for the squad.

Arak: it’s an aniseed flavoured alcoholic drink traditionally mixed with water and ice, which gives it a milky white colour (because the anethole in aniseed is not soluble in water). If anyone asks, you’re drinking milk instead of alcohol in a misplaced stab at cultural sensitivity.

You think it might be a bit off (hence the fermented flavour) but you’re really thirsty.

If you drink enough, you might even start to think unthinkable thoughts about whether Carlos removes that gold chain during… y’know… eeeeww.

Nigeria

Some years ago Manchester United signed an exciting, highly promising young talent who subsequently decided that blue suited his complexion better than red and joined Chelsea instead, because contract law doesn’t apply to football.

Fast forward to today and all involved are still trying to nail down exactly who it was that started the malicious rumours about John Obi Mikel’s alleged exciting-ness and talent in the first place.

For Nigeria, Mikel provides a solid but sluggish presence in midfield, neither particularly adventurous nor much of a destroyer, with the turning circle of your average oil tanker.

On paper, this group was always likely to be a straight race for second place between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Nigeria.

In reality, it turns out that paper wasn’t worth…the. paper. it was… written on.

I was in trouble about 3 words into that sentence. Obscure Arrested Development reference for you there.

In reality, Mikel’s pretty indicative of the team as a whole, which didn’t attack Iran with conviction and which seems unlikely to defend heroically against Bosnia and Herzegovina in its next match or Argentina in the final one. Some teams (like Croatia against Brazil) don’t seem to know they’re beaten until the final whistle. We say this more in sadness than in anger, but Nigeria seems to have beaten itself before the first match. Hence why they were so lethargic during the game, badum tish. I promise that wasn’t originally intended as a masturbation joke.

Nothing’s been decided in the group of course, and it may be that a lacklustre display against a team cast as whipping boys is just the kick up the arse Nigeria needs to find some ambition.

Best just to crack open a lager, preferably Star (Nigeria’s first domestically brewed lager), ignore the TV and take a brain trip back to the days when Jay-Jay Okocha was still playing and the Super Eagles were still soaring.

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Next time on Frood: Ghana, Cristiano Ronaldo and the USA have a battle royale to see who will finish second behind Germany in Group G.