Monday, 19 January 2015

Hoping 2015 Will Be the Year

Quick one today, as I've been flat on my back most of the weekend (and large parts of last week) with my traditional post-CES illness, with the added fun of something I picked up off a fellow party-goer on New Year's Eve (and not the fun way, either).

But in all that rack time I've been accruing, my thoughts have ranged across the insanely ambitious array of writing projects I've set for myself this year. Folks, it's gonna be a tough one:

1. Revise/rewrite last year's 4 screenplay treatments
2. Write 3 new screenplay treatments
3. Write a 4-6 issue comic based on one of last year's treatments
4. Write a 90k-word novel I've had gestating for a while now, and do it in 3 months
5. Submit short stories 20 times (which is turning out to include revising and rewriting certain stories, because my current pool of submittable stories is two)

And that doesn't include my reading goals, or blogging, or getting out to SF/F author events. It also doesn't include my goals in other areas of my life, like dating and fitness and travel.

Now, I'm not mentioning this to boast about how busy I am, but rather to note that I'm really hoping all the reading I've been doing on story structure, and all my practical work outlining my movie ideas, will translate to the comic and the novel. Comics are a new (ish) medium for me, and although I've written novels, I've never attempted to plot so much out before I write the damn thing. It might work, or it might be an epic disaster.

In essence, I'm hoping to put to use all the stuff I've been reading about the last couple of years now - Robert McKee's Story and Syd Field's Screenplay and talk of plot points, inciting incidents and act transitions. Lack of three-act story structure may not have been the crucial factor in why those early novels didn't work, but it can't hurt to know how it works now, right?

And the real goal, which I left out because it's hard to articulate in a non-vague form, is for this to be the year that I finally start down the road to writing for a living, rather than as a hobby. To be honest, it's been my goal every year since I started writing long-form fiction back in 2001. But, although I haven't quite achieved it yet - I'm still makin' money for the man in my 9 to 5 - I hope I'm making progress.

Frankly, that's all I can hope for - writing is a subjective enough thing that one can be really good but really unlucky. I may or may not be good, but as long as I stick to the old Robert Heinlein rule (read a lot, write a lot, send out what you write), I should be able to make my own luck.

Fingers crossed!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Some Thoughts on Charlie Hebdo

Like so many people, I spent this week following the developing story around the massacre at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the subsequent manhunt for the perpetrators, which ended yesterday when they were killed during a hostage standoff, and one of their accomplices was also killed while holding hostages at a Jewish grocery in Paris. I've also read so many words of commentary on "what this means" that I thought it would be worthwhile adding my own two cents.

Generally, I feel that this incident has become yet another instance for commentators (like myself, I suppose) to air their own deeply held and often misinformed opinions. It's also turned into one of those moments where people who don't respond the exact same way as everyone else gets categorized as "aiding the enemy".

For instance, there's this story, which started with USC professor Marc Cooper calling New York Times editor Dean Baquet a coward for not publishing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, and ended with Baquet calling Cooper an asshole. While I've previously suggested that sometimes the NYT and other US news outlets twist themselves unnecessarily into knots to avoid using swear words, I feel in this case Cooper was being self-righteous - a lot of the cartoons that Charlie Hebdo published really were offensive, and some to the point that they ceased to be funny but just mean-spirited. You may say that's the point of satire, but the point of living in a free democracy is that you can also choose not to speak (a choice I wish a lot more people would make).

The best reaction I've seen came from Will Self, speaking to Vice:
"Well, when the issue came up of the Danish cartoons [of Muhammad] I observed that the test I apply to something to see whether it truly is satire derives from H. L. Mencken's definition of good journalism: It should 'afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.' The trouble with a lot of so-called 'satire' directed against religiously motivated extremists is that it's not clear who it's afflicting, or who it's comforting. This is in no way to condone the shooting of the journalists, which is evil, pure and simple, but our society makes a fetish of 'the right to free speech' without ever questioning what sort of responsibilities are implied by this right." 
In his response Self hints at the most vexing aspect of Charlie Hebdo's output, which is that in insulting Muslims this paper run by white, middle-class French people was going after France's immigrant underclass. If some paper here regularly ran cartoons insulting blacks or Hispanics, most Americans would justifiably be disgusted - but here we're blinded by our own principle of integrating people, so we're unaware of just how alienating European cultures are to their own immigrants. People who say immigrants should "just integrate" miss the point that the wider societies in places like France, Britain, Germany or wherever aren't willing to do their own part to integrate newcomers.

My former J-school classmate, Ed Krayewski, writing in Reason, seems to miss this point when he suggests that the original cartoons were fine because Middle Eastern satirists publish the same kind of thing. There is a question of context here, as Middle Eastern satire targeting ISIS or Islamic fundamentalism is aimed upward, at the power structure, rather than downward, at those crushed by it. The examples Ed cites are also from countries bordering but not currently ruled by ISIS, and make fun specifically of the terror group, rather than of the Prophet Muhammad or of Islam itself. Or in other words, it's on the same level as this:

The other piece I saw that showcased Western ignorance and bias was this one from, which starts with the phrase "If you thought the Arab world celebrated the attack on Charlie Hebdo as a blow against blasphemers, some Arab-language newspapers tell a different story."

It's stupid because it assumes, as seemingly a lot of Western (and particularly American) people do, that the Arab world is a single entity that agrees on everything and has exactly the same viewpoint, stretching from North Africa to the Persian Gulf. Any Arab will tell you that this is flatly not the case. The piece gets better, as it depicts a number of cartoons in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo, and criticizing the idea of killing over cartoons, but I can't get over the premise (and what's worse is that in the original piece's lede the word "celebrate" links to Fox News on September 12, 2001, reporting on how Palestinians celebrated the attack on the World Trade Center).

To close, I also want to discuss the perpetrators for a moment, as it's so easy to dismiss them as thugs with no sense of humor (which they became, of course). But I can't help feeling a sense of lost potential there, as I saw an NBC report showing Cherif Kouachi's early life before he turned to terrorism and murder. In some home-made music videos (he wanted to be a rapper), Kouachi's smiling and clowning, arm around his friend as he raps.

Whether he'd have made it in the music business or not is irrelevant, but it's a shame that so many youths are being twisted and perverted to the side of fundamentalism. If we really want to stop more of these attacks from happening, the answer is not to silence Charlie Hebdo, or to spy on every young man at risk of becoming radicalized, but to find avenues for these guys to express themselves beyond violence.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

My Own Suggestion for Briton of the Year

I wanted to start this blog about the Times naming UKIP leader Nigel Farage "Briton of the Year" with a snarky comment suggesting that the venerable London paper's slide into irrelevance is now confirmed, but have decided to take a different tack (although, see what I did there?).

Admittedly, it is a little shocking. As a former immigrant to the UK, able to come and go as I please thanks to my Italian passport, I found all discussions about limiting (legal) immigration to be distasteful and short-sighted. And UKIP was (and I guess still is) an existential threat to me, in a manner of speaking - if they were to succeed in separating Britain from the EU, I'd immediately find it much harder to go back, find work, etc.

Farage is also a pretty unpleasant character, although he's clearly canny enough to have surrounded himself with people who make him look statesmanlike. His party seems to embroil itself in rows over homophobia or sexism or racism every other week, but as the Times notes, he's Teflon Nigel - nothing sticks.

But people who are up in arms about the choice are kind of missing the point. Hitler and Stalin were declared Man of the Year by Time magazine in the 1930s, after all. And that may sound glib (as well as an example of Godwin's Law), but the point isn't that the "Briton/Person/Whatever of the Year" is someone we admire - rather, it's about who we will best remember when we think back to 2014.

People have suggested alternate Britons of the Year, including the Ebola doctor Will Pooley or one of the people executed by ISIS. With respect, Pooley is for me a better choice, but still not who I'd choose. The other public figure who's not only been in the public eye a whole lot, and who's had a lot of words written about him, is Russell Brand, the comedian who's effectively been telling young people not to bother voting.

I wouldn't choose him either, though. Not just because I think his call to refusal is dangerous and short-sighted, in its way, as Farage's campaign against, well, everybody who had the misfortune not to be born British.

My choice would be the campaigners who successfully fought to keep from getting evicted from their homes on the New Era Estate in Shoreditch. They came to the game late, but their struggle was, for me, much more emblematic of what's happening in Britain than Farage or Brand. It's also more global - the fact that their homes were sold out from under them to an American real estate company that was ready to evict them all (or jack up their rent by at least three times), with the connivance of a sitting Tory MP, is something that's playing out everywhere.

What's admirable is that they were able to force the Tory MP and his brother to pull out of the deal, and then force the new owners to give up and sell the estate on to another housing charity. They took a stand against big money, and against selling off every last square foot of London to luxury home buyers from Russia, the Gulf or wherever, and against the odds, they won.

The reason I find the New Era group to be more deserving of Briton of the Year is that they tackled the root of what's wrong with Britain (and specifically London), whereas Farage and Brand are reacting to symptoms. Farage thinks everything would be fixed if Britain kicked out everybody who was born somewhere else; Brand thinks ignoring politicians and getting on with drugs and sex-parties is the way forward. But the New Era win shows that the way out of our current problems - in whichever country you live - is to work together to build a fairer society.

I'm sure plenty of people got evicted from their homes in London this Christmas, but the New Era activists have provided a template for how to combat predatory behavior by corporations against the individual.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Interview: Why canceling was the mistake Sony had to make

I've been following the Sony hack/Interview story all week with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I found the idea of a Hollywood movie where a pair of American journalists go assassinate an existing, sitting head of state to be a little creepy. When the movie was announced, my first thought was, "What would America (ie the FBI, NSA, CIA, etc) do if Russia or Iran came up with a movie in which someone assassinated Barack Obama?" More pertinently, positioning it as a comedy seemed particularly off.

On the other hand, canceling it completely gives the appearance of capitulating to the hackers who have caused Sony so much damage. I understand Sony's contention that they had no choice because none of the major theater chains was willing to release it - but this still has a chilling effect on art and gives hackers from hostile countries proof that fucking with a major studio like that can work.

It's hard not to feel a little bad for Sony, in any case. As I say, I understand why they've pulled it from theaters, given that no theater chains seemed willing to carry it. Some were saying Sony should release The Interview on VOD, but in this atmosphere that strikes me as a slap in the face to theater chains - Cinemark and Carmike and their ilk are already suffering from an existential crisis, so to have a studio just bypass them completely would be grounds for them not carrying Sony movies in the future.

That might escalate into a war that would cause the chains to go out of business completely, but in the short term VOD is probably not viable enough that Sony's willing to risk having to shift its entire distribution model in that direction.

Straight-to-DVD is also an option, but probably not lucrative enough for Sony to really pursue... and outlets that carry physical DVDs are even more endangered than movie theaters, so they're probably even more chicken about carrying something as highly charged as the Interview (even if it seems unlikely that North Korean hacker/terrorist collectives would be able to pinpoint individual Best Buys or Walmarts).

That all said, I was reading that the leaked emails suggest the Interview is painfully bad, and Sony executives knew it. The kerfuffle around the leaked emails and the chains refusing to carry it probably gives Sony the cover to just pull the damn thing - sure, they've financed it thus far, but now they don't have to shell out any more cash to distribute it, promote it or premiere it. This episode will probably show up as a nasty blot on Sony Entertainment's Q4 results, but might not be as bad as if they actually released it and let people see what a piece of crap it was (again, I'm speculating - but to me the trailer looked singularly unappealing, and I was very likely not going to see it, creepy idea or not).

As far as the political response, I see President Obama as essentially doing what he has to in this case, which is also about all he can do. A nebulous threat to national security has resulted in a number of big business decisions, and nothing he says will actually change that - he can't issue an executive order to have the Interview released, but he'd really be screwing up if he didn't speak out about the threat and the movie's cancellation.

The most troubling political aspect, however, is the way that the minute someone invokes 9/11 we lose our nerve, no matter how shadowy (and likely fake) the group behind the threat is. While I don't want to see terrorist attacks on American soil, whether from foreign enemies (like al Qaeda) or domestic (like the NRA; yes, I went there), I also have a hard time believing that North Korea's security apparatus extends to targeting individual movie theaters, on a continent thousands of miles across and on the other side of the world.

It was troubling back in 2001-2002 how so much art, across movies, TV and comics, was cancelled because of 9/11 and the "offensiveness" of showing buildings being blown up, but at least then people were legitimately scared. But you still get idiots being offended at depictions of the Twin Towers - when Fringe revealed that they still stood in its alternate-universe New York, my then-flatmate (the stupidest human being ever to walk the Earth) said it was "fucked up" that they showed the buildings. And this was in 2012, for fuck sake.

From an artistic point of view, then, pulling the Interview (as bad as it may or may not be) is the worst response possible. Now that we've set a precedent for it, China or Russia or whoever can just hire a proxy to hack a server somewhere, vaguely mention 9/11, and they'll be able to get anything cancelled. It's happened to the Interview now, but who's to say it can't happen to something with actual artistic merit or entertainment value?

While Benjamin Franklin's quote about liberty vs security may be taken out of context, the way we use it now is actually relevant, pace Techcrunch - it's not smart to give up liberty in exchange for security in the short term, as you really do give up both in the long term. We're seeing those twin losses right now.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Finally Joining the Ranks of PS3 Gamers

One of my first acts when I moved back to the US a year ago was to buy a TV and Playstation 3. I'd been kind of wanting one for years after it came out, but they were ridiculously expensive (especially in the UK), and because I already had a PS2, it just didn't seem worthwhile. And then, of course, I got to a point where I was expecting to move back soon, so accumulating more stuff that I couldn't bring over didn't seem like a good idea either.

I did briefly toy with the idea of getting a PS4 (or even an Xbox One), but they were too new and the range of games wasn't as good. And while it seemed like it would be nice to be able to play Halo, I decided on the PS3 simply because I've had the Sony consoles for ages and preferred the Playstation-exclusive games, like Gran Turismo.

So over the course of the year I accumulated a few games that have gotten a lot of good critical reviews, or that friends recommended. However, because I try not to play videogames longer than an hour a day on weekends, it's meant I've built up a pretty sizable backlog. Two factors don't help here: I've bought a couple of trilogy sets (Mass Effect and the Assassin's Creed: Ezio Trilogy), and I've also bought some games that take absolute ages to finish (Skyrim).

There's another problem, though: these games are only about 50% fun, and 50% grind. And I'm wondering if that's something wrong with trends in game design, or with reviewers.

To clarify, I'm thinking specifically of Mass Effect 1, Assassin's Creed 2 and Skyrim, which are the games I've played most. AC2 is held up as the high water mark of the series, and visually it's undeniably a masterpiece. As I ran along the rooftops my dad would pass through and recognize landmarks from Florence, where much of the game takes place. The assassinations are also pretty enjoyable, at least at first - locating the target, tailing him, and then dropping onto him from a great height.

The problem is that this is pretty much all there is to the game. As you control Ezio, he maintains a pretty limited set of actions that he can accomplish, so there's little progression in terms of what you can do at the start compared to the end (apart from how confidently you do all that stuff). The final boss fight, where you beard Pope Cesare Borgia in his den, has the exact same mechanics as the very first fight you conduct at the start of the game. And don't get me started on the collection of treasure and feathers.

I've got Brotherhood and Revelations still to go, and because it was cheap and had good reviews I picked up Assassin's Creed 4, but I'm a little concerned based on the above.

Mass Effect 1, on the other hand, came with a warning from the guy at GameStop who sold it to me that I should hold my breath and get through it quickly, so I could reach ME2 quicker. Having now played through ME1, and started a few hours of ME2, I can see what he meant - while the game world you navigate is amazingly detailed (or gives the appearance), the play is actually pretty limited. It might have been because of the difficulty level I was playing, but leveling up didn't seem to have any effect on how well I got through sections of the game. And there was also the annoying BioWare thing, encountered in Dragon Age 2, of standardized cave and base layouts.

Mass Effect 2 seems to have dispensed with a few of these problems, but the RPG elements seem to have become more of a formality, or vestigial tail, if you like. Hunting for resources has also gotten to be an enormous bore, where you have to make multiple trips to supply depots just to deplete even a world with "moderate" resources.

If Mass Effect 1 was limited, I sometimes feel like Skyrim suffers from the opposite problem, of being too expansive. I got to a point soon after I first started it where I had a million quests and miscellaneous tasks, but no idea which one to start with, and I seemed to be too underpowered to accomplish any of them. Eventually I had to go find walkthroughs online, to impose some sort of order on the game, and that's helped me progress (that and crafting a really badass longsword).

Speaking of crafting, I'm wondering what possessed RPG developers in the last decade and a half or so, to add skills like leather-working and metallurgy and cooking (for fuck's sake) into their games. It seems to have plagued MMOs most of all, as I used to watch my old flatmate spend entire Saturdays on World of Warcraft or Aion doing nothing but grinding cooking or leather-working. Skyrim doesn't force you to those kinds of extremes, but what's wrong with how Final Fantasy used to do it, of just running around finding stuff?

That said, Skyrim is entertaining enough that I find it really hard to stick to my one-hour rule, as there's always just that one more door to go through, or that set of equipment to sell or craft, or whatever.

What I'd say is missing from this current generation, though, is something like Resident Evil 4. I feel like, for the most part, that game had the perfect balance. For one thing, playing on higher difficulty levels unlocked more areas of the game, which made it instantly replayable (I probably beat it 3 times). Every boss fight was also different, justifying all the weapons you were carrying around. But the best part, for me, was how it started off terrifying, but as soon as you got comfortable with the controls and difficulty levels, it would throw something else at you that would require a completely new strategy to defeat.

Case in point: by the end, my flatmate at the time was calling me "Jack Bauer", because I could kick down the door to a room toss in a couple of grenades and then mow down the survivors with the uzi, all in a couple of seconds. And then just a moment later they introduced a new bad guy, that you could only kill with a sniper rifle armed with a special scope. The bad guy was super slow, but so was the rifle, so that if you missed (or even if you didn't) you'd quickly find the monster gnawing on your head.

I guess the answer is to get Resident Evil 5, which was based on a similar game engine. But it's annoying that there aren't enough games like Resident Evil 4, at least in the batch I've seen, and what's coming up for PS4 doesn't seem much better either.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Thanksgiving: The Most and Least American of Holidays

In the years I lived in Britain, Thanksgiving became one of my favorite holidays. For one thing, I liked the idea of a break from work at the end of November, which we didn't get in the UK - public holidays there are set in such a way that between the end of August and Christmas, there are no days off at all. But it also struck me as the perfect way, along with Halloween, to delay the ever-earlier onset of Christmas decorations: here in the US, it's rare to see Christmas decorations before the first of November.

In the UK, by contrast, restaurants start taking bookings for office Christmas parties in August - no joke. One year Travelodge's ads on the Tube claimed that "it's never too early to book" for Christmas parties, which is a tacit admission that, yes, in fact, it was too early.

Sasha and Malia totally saw through that one, Travelodge

Eventually I also started to appreciate the fact that it's not really a consumer-driven or religious holiday (although there are some religious underpinnings to the first Thanksgiving, of course). Sure, you buy a turkey and all the food, but there's no pressure to buy presents or candy, and the point is to get together with your family and give thanks for what you have. I used to joke (on the square) that they should introduce Thanksgiving in the UK, both because it's easy to transport and because it would give a much-needed long weekend in the fall.

So I was rather excited to have my first Thanksgiving back at home in ten years. It wasn't a big family affair, because my sisters and dad were living in Europe, but my mom and step-dad laid out a nice spread for me, which we did ample justice to on Thursday. As is traditional, we also left loads of leftovers, which I've been chipping away at since.

Me after four days of Thanksgiving leftovers

But it was the day after, when I went for a walk to a nearby coffee shop for breakfast, that I got a sense of what the holiday means to Americans. At the start of the weekend I read an article that references Philip Roth and his description of Thanksgiving as the day when everyone eats the same thing as everyone else. 

I'd never thought of it that way, but that is, in fact, what makes Thanksgiving special among other holidays - Christmas and Easter reference one specific religion, even if everyone else has started celebrating them to a certain degree, while Halloween and even New Years Eve are open to being celebrated however you want. The only days that come close to offering the same sort of togetherness are Independence Day and Labor Day, which mark the only other occasion when Americans are pretty much all doing the same thing and the majority of people aren't working (a great many holidays here are optional for employers to give, which stinks, even though my company's given me all of them).

In any case, as I walked to Peet's Coffee, I saw a bunch of other people walking over, alone or in groups, with that same relaxed attitude that I was feeling. I knew that everybody I saw was recovering from their own Thanksgiving meal the day before, and now they were settling in for the rest of the long weekend.

It's easy to say that Thanksgiving is typically American, but I don't think it is. America is such a big, heterogeneous and fractious country that it's very hard to feel any connection to the people around you, whether coworkers or neighbors. As that article I read that mentioned Philip Roth said, your neighbor could be a fugitive from the law, or a cannibal, and the first you'd know about it is the police showing up on your street one day.

Britain, on the other hand, is small and crowded and homogeneous. London may be one of the most diverse cities in the world, but even there everything is set up as if its only inhabitants were white, Anglo-Saxon and Anglican. Christmas is the same kind of meal as Thanksgiving, with a roast turkey (or goose, if you want to be Dickensian) and a set of rituals that everybody partakes in: pulling crackers, drinking too much, listening to the Queen's Speech.

But this togetherness permeates everything that the British do - everybody shops at the same places (in part because Britain is the land of retail chains, but still), they watch the same TV and every couple of years pretty much everybody gets together to fulminate against another inept display by England's national team - whether in football, rugby or cricket, or even just to complain about the airtime sporting events seem to command (as if the World Cup were crowding out vibrant British TV, but again, I digress).

I'm being a little reductive, of course. People in London do lead different day-to-day lives than people in Northern England, and the different social classes have their own sets of rituals. But I do believe there are more constants in British life than in American life, which is why Roth's quote is so striking. Your family may do Thanksgiving differently than mine (my senior year in high school we ordered it from a restaurant, and hung out in the jacuzzi as we waited for the delivery), but the important thing is that we all do it, and that it's one of the few things that we, as a country, choose to have in common.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Ignore the Naysayers: Wayne Rooney is one of the Greats

Wayne Rooney won his 100th cap for England last week, in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia. I didn't see the match, but by all accounts it was a pretty dire display by England, starting with an own-goal from Jordan Henderson and only being salvaged by England waking up in the second half and finally playing like they were expected to. Rooney helped in this turnaround, by winning a penalty, which he then converted - this led to a fightback and England won 3-1.

What's interesting is that on the eve of the game, the BBC posted an analysis piece asking whether Rooney could be considered a "great", as he was also steadily climbing up the list of England's top scorers ever. He went into the Slovenia game with 43 goals, putting him fourth on the list. By the end of the friendly against Scotland at Celtic Park a few days later, Rooney had moved up to third, with 46 goals, putting him two goals behind Gary Lineker and three behind all-time leader Bobby Charlton.

The thrust of Phil McNulty's piece was, in fact, to look at whether or not Rooney had fulfilled his potential from his debut in 2003. There were a number of comments from the likes of Danny Mills, pointing out that Rooney's been playing at the top of English football for over a decade; and from Alan Shearer, who suggested that Rooney isn't in the same class as Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.

But if you think about it, what makes those two players great? When people debate whether Rooney's a "great" player or not, the implication is that he hasn't helped England win any trophies. Lineker may have led England to its first semi-finals since 1966, and Jimmy Greaves may have the better goals-per-games ratio (44 in 57 games), but Bobby Charlton remains at the top because he's one of the heroes of 1966.

But, like Rooney, neither Ronaldo nor Messi has won a World Cup. Ronaldo's never led Portugal to victory at the European Championships, and Messi's Argentina has never won a senior tournament (although he was on the winning U20 and Olympic teams).

Admittedly, Rooney isn't quite up there with Ronaldo or Messi in terms of Champions League goals, or European honors. He does also trail both in terms of career goals at club level, and his Wikipedia page lacks a section detailing all the records he's broken, whereas Ronaldo and Messi's pages have long lists of records, many of which they share, such as scoring against all teams in their league or getting to 25 goals.

I'm not denying both are great players, but I'd just like to note that they each play for the only teams in Spain that are credible title contenders each year - it's easy to look world-class when your competition is leagues behind you. English football is slightly more competitive, as the top three or four teams have changed several times in the last decade (anybody else remember when Newcastle was considered a top- four club?).

I guess my point is, it's harsh to say that Rooney's not a "great" player just because he isn't as good as the two guys who win the FIFA Ballon d'Or and World Player of the Year awards every year. He's not a prolific goalscorer, but he gets enough to help Manchester United challenge for the title (most seasons - although if United's poor form continues I wouldn't be surprised to see him pitch up at Chelsea or even Manchester City).

And I think Mills is right when he says that Rooney's been playing at the top of English football for over a decade. Rooney's not even 30 yet, remember, so he has a few years to go before he hits the decline that's currently plaguing his England teammate Steven Gerrard. It's likely, barring injury, that Rooney will also play in the 2018 World Cup, although I think it's fair to say that his last tournament in his prime will be 2016.

Rooney will probably never lift an international trophy (and neither will Ronaldo; Messi could still win a Copa America or something with Argentina). But he will surpass Bobby Charlton as England's top scorer ever, and his record will probably stand for a good long while. That strikes me as enough to seal Wayne Rooney's reputation forever.