My Mum used to say, "be careful what you wish for."

Since the top division of English professional soccer was revamped in the early 1990s, the championship was won year after year by Manchester United.

Fueled by financial success, its noncharismatic Scottish manager used his chequebook, New York Yankees'-style, to buy all the best players and make the league a yawner. When Arsenal finally won two seasons ago, there was a collective sigh of relief. Last year, the arrogant London club won for a second time and things seemed dull again.

So this year every neutral fan in England was hoping that perhaps a different club would take the lead. That's happening; unfortunately it's Chelsea.

Now that name likely didn't mean much to Americans until a president christened his only daughter. Now hundreds of cute little Americans grow up with the name. When I refereed the Estacada Rangers' JV soccer team in Warrenton a couple of seasons ago, no fewer than three girls on the squad were saddled with that name, Chelsea.

So here's the punchline. Chelsea is a swank area of London adjoining Mayfair, which is home of Harrods' famous store and the most expensive square on the English version of Monopoly (think Park Place). It's where Margaret Thatcher overnighted when she wasn't at 10 Downing St. Regrettably it is also birthplace of the British skinhead movement, those "bovver boys" with steel-capped boots who caused "aggro" (aggravation) everywhere they went, beating up gays, Pakistanis, in fact anyone they pleased, in their version of sport.

Now you know why I offer a wry smile when I learn your angelic daughter has been named after England's version of Hooliganville.

I admit, I cheated. And I'm glad I did. I heard that Clint Eastwood's Oscar-nominated movie Million Dollar Baby had a twist in its tale that takes it in a darker direction from the much-advertised Rocky-type plot. Usually I detest learning the denouement ahead of time; after all, when you read a mystery novel you like to guess who-dun-it yourself. (Just once I actually did guess the murderer - as a teenager, reading Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie. When you figure out the bridge hands, you know the dummy did it.)

As far as I'm concerned, Clint has done no wrong: I love the Spaghetti westerns; Unforgiven is a masterpiece; I know every word of dialogue from Heartbreak Ridge. (I always tear up when Gunny Highway gives earnest Lt. Ring the thumbs-up "Recon!" before he walks into their commander's office to get chewed out.) But I sensed his new one wasn't for me, and I was right. Caveat videtor.

On Oscars night, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber won't be getting much exercise. His Phantom of the Opera is nominated in three categories, art direction, cinematography and song. The first two are deserved, but hearing Minnie Driver sing Learn To Be Lonely over the end credits is like purchasing a bicycle for a fish. In this excellent movie, Driver plays the diva Carlotta, and milks her part for laughs, but that isn't her singing her arias. Her operatic voice belongs to the talented Margaret Preece.

An asthmatic, I spent one-third my early childhood home sick, which reinforced my interest in reading. As well as the aforementioned Dame Agatha, I developed a lifelong interest in maps. I cannot understand why other people don't get as excited about them. My world atlas had a sky-blue cover and contained so many wonders. I wish I still had it. Africa especially intrigued me. Egypt is the only country on that continent that hasn't changed its name, rulers or borders since those days.

Fellow map aficionado Miles Harvey captured that passion in The Island of Lost Maps, which I've just read. It traces a notorious map thief's path while taking side trails to explore the history of cartography. Harvey interviews a map maker who reveals she intentionally draws every map with a fictitious street which she names after an uncle so she can look at competitors' work and instantly see if they have copied her. So if you are looking for Uncle Fred Street in Astoria, and cannot find it, that could be the explanation. Of course, she could be bluffing.

Patrick Webb is managing editor of The Daily Astorian.


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