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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Dotlympics 2012: Day 4


In a flurry of chalk, swearing, pain, subtle Lycra-clad silhouettes of willies and the potential of rectal prolapses, it's about time for some Olympic weightlifting I plum reckon. The pity is it's not the top bodyweight class, because those people are fat. And it's a pity, too, it's not the bottom bodyweight class because those people are small and able to lift several times their own tiny bodyweight. Like ants.

Instead I am watching the 69kg class, which would be my class if only Reece's Peanut Butter Cups had never made the Atlantic crossing. There is a Team GB competitor here, though, who is from Wales. Wales has never struck me as a hotbed of weightlifting. It's really more of a preserve of those central Asian countries with virtually unspellable names and whose Presidents as often as not rename the days of the week after their dog.

Weightlifting is my absolute Olympic highlight. A lot of people like the track and field, but with the European and World championships and the Commonwealth Games, you're pretty much guaranteed to see some medal-slinging athletic action every year in the UK. Events like archery, volleyball and weightlifting, though, they're the special treats. In many ways I feel that long may that remain. As much as I'd like the BBC to launch Weightlifting 24, it would take a small piece of the shine off of my life as a sports watching man.

There's an other-worldliness about the 69kg class. These are the men who you'd sit next to on the tube and never suspect were out of the ordinary but could lift any number of pianos clean over their head. Special, too, is the red button coverage this morning. After the British competitor, Dai Weights, had completed his three lifts in the snatch phase - equalling the British record in the process - the two commentators said they were buggering off out the back to talk to him before the clean and jerk. A rare, rare treat indeed, as I am now watching my beloved Olympic weightlifting in a completely unfettered way, perhaps occasionally giving pause to what dear old David Vine might have said as the action unfolded.

An Uzbekistani gentleman who had arms like pipecleaners just narrowly failed to snatch a full 135kg bar above his head. A quick blast of some UK grime music. Now here's a Thai competitor who looks a bit podgy. He's dropped it too. The theme from Westworld. The Uzbek chap is back. No luck. Some stone cold funk. Here is Ravi Kumar Katulu of India trying to pick up 136kg, which is the equivalent of a snooker cue with a Smeg fridge on either end. Success. Parisian Walkways. The bar is up to 138kg now for an Azerbaijani who is no bigger than a small gibbon but can pull a Jumbo Jet with his knackersack. No problems at all.

There's been some time gap now since the Team GB entrant Gareth The Lift left the stage and yet there's no shortage of new competition. Most of them, like the North Korean athlete now on stage to cleanly snatch a full 140kg bar for his first attempt, are able to lift what Rhodri Muscles could and him while he did it. It puts things in a global perspective, rather. And it makes me very glad that there are no commentators to still be talking about him as a waif-like Turkeminstani wanders out to centre stage with a cow under each arm just as a warm-up.

Just sport. No chat. No Team GB. No needless excuses. It's complete bliss.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Dotlympics 2012: Day 3


It's day 3 of the London Games and an unusual thing is happening: I'm watching some sport not involving an athlete from the United Kingdom. I'll be honest, it's a brave new world for me. What do you do?

The BBC are no real help in this. After eulogising the wonderful smorgasbord of sporting action offered by BBC 1 yesterday I am now predictably going to complain about it. I suppose that Olympic coverage in this country has always been rather Team GB-centric, but the more choices they give us - the more platforms there are available - the more the jingle-jangle of jingoism on the flagship station begins to stick in my bleedin' craw.

How are Team GB doing today? What did We win yesterday? How many Gold Medal Chances (i.e. Olympic events we have a competitor in, no pressure there) do we have today? And how are Our athletes coping with the pressure? We ask all of them continually, every hour of the day and night, for two weeks or until they cry. The BBC like to make sportsmen cry. It shows the human side of them and gives an insight into the emotional self-mastery and personal sacrifices they all make. It's also a vivid image and a good story.

So Tom Daley, how has your dad's death affected you? By the way, he IS dead and is not coming back. Yep, deadsville. Kark City, Arizona.

It's driving me completely bonkers, I have to tell you. Here's the program of events from yesterday evening on BBC 1:

1900: Gary Lineker asks Ian Thorpe if Rebecca Adlington can do it.
1920: Interview with Lizzie Armitstead, silver medallist in the women's cycling road race that afternoon. She rode a completely perfect race, you know.
1932: Minute's silence for Paula Radcliffe's withdrawal from London 2012.
1943: In the aquatic centre, Claire Balding asks Mark Foster if Rebecca Adlington can do it. Over her right shoulder we see vague traces of two world records being broken and two gold medals being won.
1956: VT of Rebecca Adlington, mostly from four years ago
1958: Footage from The Rebecca Adlington Swimming Centre in Mansfield as a crowd assemble to watch her race on TV, all the while missing a number of European and Olympic records being broken and more gold medals being won.
2008: A ninety second piece of VT as Jake Humphrey and Misha Hussein tell us how easy it is to watch some - any - fucking sport at this pissing Olympics.
2015: A Lithuanian 15-year old wins her semi-final in European record time. Claire Balding notes she trains in Plymouth, which is in the UK.
2016: Can Rebecca Adlington do it?
2023: Rebecca Adlington's race takes place. Rebecca Adlington takes a bronze medal. Names of the gold and silver medal winners currently escape me, as no-one mentioned them particularly.
2028: Gary Lineker, Claire Balding, Ian Thorpe, Mark Foster, C.B. Fry, Sir Winston Churchill and Windy fucking Miller discuss how well Rebecca Adlington did.
0100: Pages from Ceefax.

Today, my Olympic watching attempts so far have been a 30-minute long discussion about whether Tom Daley and Pete Waterfield can do it, 3 minutes of a badminton match between an Australian and a Slovakian, Michael Vaughan discussing Lord's and its role in the Olympic archery competition and then the phenomenal arse that is Garry Herbert successfully commentating on a coxless fours rowing semi-final only mentioning the British boat in a race in which they were, at no stage, higher than third in a field of six.

Today will see me cuddling my broadband connection. I may even buy the router chocolates. I can't take this endless, meaningless, chatter any more when all I want to see is some sport. Any sport - any sport - will do, just so long as it doesn't cut off after 5 minutes so that Reggie Yates can talk shit at me for a quarter of an hour.

I will relent and watch BBC 1 for Tom Daley and Pete Waterfield's 10 metre synchronised diving final this afternoon. But I shall be doing so with the sound off.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Dotlympics 2012: Day 2


I was glad that I had Freeview for the Beijing Olympics. It was a revolution for my Olympic watching ambitions (chiefly: watching a load of Olympics). But four years have now passed and frankly that seems like a long time. For those wealthy herberts with Sky or Freesat or the like, there are now tens of dedicated Olympic sport channels so that you can watch uninterrupted coverage of whatever sport you like. Of course, you can also use the BBC website for that, using their really rather spiffy new live player. But I just can't get into doing it.

I am quickly realising that the Olympics is sport pick 'n' mix. I'd frankly love to watch the men's table tennis which is, as I write this, taking place and available to watch on the BBC website with live commentary by Reginald Bosanquet. Probably live from the Royal Albert Hall or on the Cutty Sark's poop deck or a similar venue somewhere else magnificently incongruous. However, if I were to take this cherry-picking approach I would have missed out on the men's volleyball or the kayak slalom events, both of which I watched this morning. I don't really know the rules of either of these sports - I know the basic aims but not the fine details which could very possibly make all the difference as to who wins the thing - but I was quite willing to get involved in them. Particularly as both featured entrants from Team GB, which saved me the bother of even having to work out which team to support.

Team GB haven't, so far, done very well in any sport I have seen. We even got pegged back in the ladies' team archery by Russia after a promising start. Quite grotesquely disrespectful, that, considering it took place in the proud surroundings of Lord's cricket ground. It's like your French exchange student beating you at darts in Gyles Brandreth's front room.

However, I'm happy to just be able to see any of it. Regardless of who wins or what sport it is that Jake Humphrey decides to beam into my face this afternoon, this truly is the greatest show on Earth for the sports lover. The facts that Team GB are dropping like flies left, right and centre or that people who live in solid gold houses are able to watch a live feed of the women's changing rooms at the Aquatic Centre with live commentary from the Duke of York, are of supreme disinterest to me. If I got hooked on the Olympic cycling then I damn near might miss the fencing. Where's the fun in that?

Dotlympics 2012 - Day 1


To celebrate the first day of the 30th Olympiad, I hardly watched any Olympics. It was a bold strategy but one that paid off as British athletes shamefully declined to win any gold medals. I know. What's all that about then?

Actually, I'm going to try and sidestep that editorial line - which is already well-covered by the BBC and every single other British news agency. I've come to the potentially risky conclusion that, in every field where there is a British athlete nailed on for gold, all the other competitors from all the other countries are probably going to be trying to win the Olympic gold medal as well. It's a disgrace, really. Why don't they wait for the Olympic Games hosted by their own country?

Anyway, Mark Cavendish didn't win the cycling road race. He was beaten out of the medal spots by some cunning tactical plans executed by the teams of other countries who were underhandedly trying to win themselves. The Kazakh cyclist Alexandre Vinokourov, who had the brass neck to look pleased with himself, won the race and the gold medal. But the road race was notable, at least, for being the first live sport  of London 2012™ that I watched.

It was a timely reminder of the key reason I love the Olympic Games. The allure of all sports. The way a sport you never watch, or watch perhaps once every four years, pulls you in to create a 17-day addict. I'm already jonesing for some swimming and I can't even swim.

My favourite aspect of the cycling road race event is the teamwork. Specifically, I like the way they have teams of four. There are, of course, only three medals. Quite how the brutally dominant Team GB had decided to divvy these up, I am not quite sure. Perhaps they took the democratic decision to not win any at all, which was jolly upstanding of them. Of course, it may be decided by who is being each team's little donkey. Every team has its star sprinter - in Team GB's case this was Cavendish of course - and this leaves the other three as a support and back-up crew. One of them always seems to be a literal water carrier, though. At one point I'm pretty sure Bradley Wiggins had four water bottles down the back of his shirt, plus a ham sandwich in his shorts and a six-pack of sausage rolls where the sun don't shine. On his back: a barrel of ginger beer. Fun-size Milky Ways were strapped up his legs with gaffer tape.

A fully-laden moving refreshment station, it's hard to see how Wiggins could have gotten a medal even if he'd wanted one. The unedifying sight of the winner of the Tour de France being passed for third on The Mall by a tressle table covered in pork pies could have been too much for the expectant populace of Britain, still overstimulated by the sight of Kenneth Brannagh in a stovepipe hat, to bear.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Dotlympics 2012 opening ceremony


I don't really care much for opening ceremonies. In fact, it's fair to say that the only thing I hate more than opening ceremonies are countries other than the one I live in. Plus, I love the Olympics. Therefore there was a grim inevitability that a combination of that and crazed jingoism would see me watching this evening's Danny Boyle-directed extravaganza of free dance and tiresomely continual anticipation of David Beckham's arrival.

I'm not really looking forward to it. I'm going in to the whole thing in the way you might a night in a haunted house as a codicil in a great aunt's will. It's something that I feel I really ought to do, rather than looking forward to with any great enthusiasm. Although actually the haunted house thing is probably a bad example, because that would be awesome.

Nevertheless, it's as good a time as any to launch the second Dotlympiad (You can see all of my reflections of the Beijing Games here). So, tonight, live on blog from 8.30 p.m. I will be presenting my own opening ceremony. I hope that you will enjoy it. Maybe you will prefer it even to the official opening ceremony in London? If nothing else, I can guarantee my opening ceremony will not have David Beckham in it.
- - -

2016: Welcome to the London Dotlympic opening ceremony. The location is my garden. The themes of tonight's festivities are British history, Britishness and the good old-fashioned British Friday night out.

2031:Pigeons.

2034: Bears on unicycles. One of them is dressed as Sir Edward Elgar.

2039: There are no better serial killers than British serial killers. This dance routine celebrates that fact. Here, a group of nubile young girls, many of them prostitutes, gambol across the infield. And here come the serial killers! Jack the Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, John Christie, Hindley and Brady. Let the chase commence!

Ian Huntley is in charge of the bath afterwards.

2043: Cavalcade of whimsical drunks.

2045: Cavalcade of aggressive, racist drunks.

2053: A red double-decker bus filled with Palace guards, drinking beer at its correct temperature.

2059: Unexpected pigeons.

2101: In order to celebrate cultural diversity and inclusiveness, my curry arrives.

2104: Here are the members of the Royal Ballet with their stylised re-enactment of the bombing of Dresden. Meanwhile the Royal Shakespeare Company perform scenes from Dad's Army.

2110: A flypast by some of the icons of British aviation as two Spitfires, a Sopwith Camel and a De Havilland Comet all drop into the Thames with flying colours.

2116: General-purpose dismissiveness of the French - including Agincourt, Waterloo and a 5-minute open mic segment.

2122: British popular music's influence is showcased, as the remaining members of The Beatles exhume the deceased members of The Who and vice versa.

2125: World War I in 45 seconds, by the children of the West Ham Church of England Primary School.

2128: A delegation of athletes from the West Indies, Ireland and Kenya arrive in the stadium only to be turned back by a landlady from Notting Hill wearing a tabard, officiously tapping the sign in her window.

2130: The entire Industrial Revolution is marked by the Manic Street Preachers singing some interminable dirge about the Miners' Strike of 1984.

2136: And here come the elephants.

2149: A celebration of British ingenuity: to celebrate the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928 it is revealed that every seat in the stadium has given its occupant a dose.

2150: Stonehenge.

2151: Foxes.

2153: Cavalcade of returning whimsical drunks, now notably less whimsical.

2156: The vomiting begins.

2201: Fights.

0013: The flame is lit by the only person left standing, the proprietor of Best Kebab, Plaistow, E13.

Mission to Mars

Here are some dates for your consideration: 20-21 July 1969, 19-21 November 1969, 5-6 February 1971, 30 July-3 August 1971, 21-24 April 1972 and 11-14 December 1972. These are the only occasions that humanity has so far spent on a celestial body other than the Earth. I should probably point out, in the eventuality that anyone reading this is a bit thick, that on all of the above dates the celestial body in question was the moon.

20th July 1969 - 14th December 1972. Honestly. It reads like a hamster's gravestone.

I was born in 1980, which means that I have missed out on all the space fun. Unless you count large scale calamitous failures as fun, which you should not. You bastard. Back on the very Monday that I was born, in the midst of the cold war, the day in July 1969 that man landed on the moon was not yet even 11 years ago. Astronauts and space missions still captured the imagination. It was something constructive to do with all those nuclear bombs. Surely, within days we'd be racing the Soviets to Mars, winner gets all the best rocks?

Goin Mars, BRB
But then Mikail Gorbachev comes along and ruins everything, favouring working on peace on Earth rather than uncontrolled spending trying to blow everything up. In the giddy thrill of the Berlin Wall's collapse, we lost sight of Mars.

Back then I was still only nine years old, though. Plenty of time for a new cold war to begin, surely? It did, of course, but being based around the concept of global terrorism rather than Statehood and political ideology, it did little to advance the space race. Terrorists are unreasonable people at the best of times, very unlikely to be swayed or impressed by the sight of some bloke playing golf in virtually-zero gravity. And all the while I am growing older, my chances of seeing anything interesting at all ever happening in my life - something worth telling future generations about that isn't just about explosions or death tolls - are growing slimmer by the withered, wrinkly, grey-pubed day.

Why did humanity explore space in the first place? We claimed it was in the spirit of scientific discovery and humanity's insatiable curiosity and thirst for knowledge. It seems likely now that these were lies. It was all for political and ideological reasons, wasn't it? How ghastly and smutty. How ordinary. How terrestrial.

Human beings need to go to Mars. Human beings are very stupid and don't know anything until we go and find stuff out. We are completely unable to conceive of how anything works without experiential knowledge of it. On 19th July 1969, for example, we believed that the moon was made of cheese, that Clangers lived there and that cows jumped over it on a regular basis. How foolish we were.

Mars: all the information currently known
And now I want to know all about Mars. What do they have there? History alone teaches me to be wary of thinking it is all Martians scuttling about wearing Roman Armour. But how can I even begin to try and envisage the wonders until a member of my own race gets their candy ass up there and hits some golf balls about and drops a feather? Do they have a Morrison's? Are they Protestants? And what can we learn about the nature of existence and creation?

Humanity not going to Mars is dashed incurious of us, if nothing else. A life half-lived. And I'm going to kick up a big stink about this until some bastard does it.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Common sense prevails

Why are there 26 letters in the English alphabet? It doesn't make a bit of sense. Twenty-six? Was that Henry VIII's lucky number or something? Even in the dark days of the imperial measures era there was nothing to rival the lunacy of basing anything on a base-26 system. Now, I'm from Sussex, which means that I have five digits on each hand. I am assured by my health visitor that this is the conventional number. This is why human beings tend towards counting in base-five and base-ten. Because you've always got those hands handy, you see.

So, we need to get rid of one letter, don't we? And I think that we all know which one it will have to be.

nemesis


Sorry, H, but it's time. We've had our fun, not least in your sneaky silent useage in words like "white". But you are no longer sustainable. Cockneys don't pronounce you anyway, for one thing. But it's the merciless plague of people who pronounce you as "haitch" that did for you in the end.

Nothing in this whole world angers me like people who say "H" as "haitch". Not even the Olocaust. If you do it, you are shit thick and pig ignorant and I hate you and hope you will soon die in screaming, torturous, agonies. How did it even happen? The first person I ever knew who did it was a girl in my class at primary school. Oh, we all just treated it as an oddity. How little did we realise that she was ground zero. The carrier. What we should have done is killed her stone dead there and then. She'll be 31 years old now. Thirty-one years old and from Woodingdean? You'll be able to count her progeny on the fingers of three hands. There's little hope now for our gene pool. It's probably time for humanity to start again on a new planet.

Fucking "haitch".

Monday, 23 July 2012

This is your brain on FLEAS

At every primary school there were kids who had fleas. If you touched them, you would have fleas. The only way to get rid of the fleas would be to use a spray of flea spray from an invisible can of flea spray. In many ways, your entire social status was very much dependent on enough people in your social circle liking you enough to disinfect you. Because otherwise you'd have fleas and be a fleabag. You fleabag.

FLEABAG

Life was simpler back then, in many ways. Even by the time you got to secondary school there weren't any fleabags. Maybe the proximity of GCSEs focused the mind sufficiently to give everyone a gung-ho attitude to the fact that the new people sitting around you may well have fleas? Maybe everyone gets sprayed with a giant invisible can of flea spray? Maybe everyone just grows up? Although I think that last one is highly unlikely.

Life was more straightforward back then. At my school there were two fleabags. That I knew of, at least. Which is worrying in itself. I could have been right next to a mega fleabag and not even known it and have the fleas. But I doubt it because fleabags are very easy to spot. Unkempt. Smelt a bit like old milk or hutches. Lived on the Bexhill Road estate, basically.

Life was more brutal then. Yes, there was a massive element of discrimination and snobbery to it. But in our defence we all agreed that they were fleabags and I'm pretty sure one of them actually did have fleas. That snorkel parka of his certainly had any amount of life forms other than him inside it. And let's face it, it does children good to be wary of getting fleas, especially at a time when AIDS had just gotten started. We all knew fleas was just a gateway to the worse stuff. And the link between the fleas and the AIDS was pretty obvious - the spray from the invisible can was 100% effective at curing both conditions.

Life was better back then. I long for a return to those days. I don't care about your job, your prospects, your income, your creed, colour or kin. Dancing around the deep psychological complexities of individual people, balancing the elements of positive or negative. It's exhausting and not for me. Just tell me if you've got fleas or not. Hell, I'll decide it for myself.

I'm not worried because I've got double super flea immunity, no comebacks.

Friday, 20 July 2012

The America Project - Nebraska


Nebraska (NE) size 77,420 sq.m population 1.8 million


Bordering states Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri (6)
State capital Lincoln
Most populous city Omaha
Other notable places Bellevue, Grand Island, Kearney, Fremont
Notable landmarks and natural features Scotts Bluff National Monument, Pony Express Historic Trail, Great Plains
Statehood 1st March 1867 (37th)

Ten famous Nebraskans
Fred Astaire (actor and dancer; born Omaha, 1899-1987)
Marlon Brando (actor; born Omaha, 1924-2004)
Dick Cheney (politician, 41st Vice-President of the USA; born Lincoln, 1941 -)
Henry Fonda (actor; born Grand Island, 1905-1982)
Gerald Ford (politician, 38th President of the USA; born Omaha, 1913-2006)
Malcolm X (civil rights leader; born Omaha, 1925-1965)
Marg Helgenberger (actress; born Fremont, 1958 -)
L. Ron Hubbard (author and religious leader; born Tilden, 1911-1986)
Harold Lloyd (actor and comedian; born Burchard, 1893-1971)
Andy Roddick (tennis player; born Omaha, 1982 -)

Three important events

1. Niobrara (1857 - present)

Civic pride is something a lot of people whiffle on about. But if you want to know about real civic pride, look no further than the village of Niobrara, situated in Knox County, north-east Nebraska. Niobrara is the Native American word for "running water", which is some indication as to what happened next. Built next to the Niobrara River, the town flooded repeatedly. In March 1881, the town flooded with six feet of water and by April it had repeated itself on a further two occasions. The damp populace did what anyone would have done: gathering a group of teamsters, jacks, winches, capstans and mules, they shifted the entire village a mile and a half down the road. In 1970, the water table on the rise due to the Gavins Point Dam, the citizens did it again - although this time presumably using more machinery and fewer mules. Niobrara 3 was dedicated on 4th July 1977. It is unclear as to whether the residents fitted casters to their new homes just in case.

2. Lynching of Joe Brown (28th September 1919)

A 41-year old black packing house worker called Joe Brown who suffered from acute rheumatism was accused of assaulting a young white woman called Agnes Loebeck. Brown was arrested and taken to Douglas County Courthouse, Omaha on 28th September. An angry mob of between 5,000 and 15,000 people descended on the scene that night. By 8.30 that evening they had set fire to the building and were preventing the fire brigade from entering the street. The mayor came out to reason with the crowd but he was assaulted and lynched, not coming round until the following week. The mob then stormed the jail. Brown, who protested his innocence throughout, was dragged outside and hanged from a lamppost. He was then shot, stripped naked and his body burnt on a bonfire in the street. The cuddly locals sold pieces of the rope that made Brown's noose for ten cents a pop.

It was a gentler time, the past.

3. Krug Park rollercoaster accident (24th July 1930)

Rollercoasters - now there's something that's great fun. Unless the bolts that hold them together fail, causing structural collapse and their patrons to fall screaming to their deaths. Which is what happened in Krug Park, Omaha on 24th July 1930. The four carriage Big Dipper rollercoaster was whizzing merrily along carrying 23 children and teenagers when it derailed. Gravity did the rest, four being killed and 17 more injured, the other two presumably having had very strong thighs. The following day, rollercoasters were banned in Omaha. Those still seeking thrills in Nebraska's most populous city had to join the Ku Klux Klan instead.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Animal alphabet: the conclusionz

I have now finished the animal alphabet, the pioneering (it wasn't) PRINT THEM OUT AND COLOUR THEM IN IF YOU LIKE online repository of A-Z animal pictures. The sound you can hear is the people who live next door whooping.

Anyway, the final letter in any (proper) alphabet is Z and this presents something of a difficulty. As we all know, there is only one animal that begins with the letter Z and this animal is resolutely black and white, a problem in a colouring-in project.

However, the keen-eyed among you will notice that I reached a solution of some considerable cunning and elegance, proving once and for all that I am cleverer than you are.

zebra

If you'd like to download and print out an A4-sized version of this picture, even just for the sake of completism, you can do so by clicking HERE. To see the whole lot and use it to spell out rude words, click HERE.

I don't know what I am going to do with the animal alphabet next. Needless to say these pages will keep you updated as to my inevitable, doomed, attempt to make some money out of it. This will be as exciting for you as it will be financially ruinous for me, so it's something to look forward to.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Y is the question

Today's penultimate animal in the animal alphabet begins, surprising though this may seem, with the letter Y.

Yak

If you would like to download an A4-sized version to print out and make a paper aeroplane from, you can do so HERE.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Celebrity spotting masterclass

There are people who walk among us who are very adept at spotting celebrities. Celebrities are people who are better than us, so these people who can spot them are also very blessed. I represent neither of these groups.

Holy crap, I think it's Zoƫ Ball!

Some people are just unlucky. Some people live in the wrong place. It's hard to spot celebrities if you live on Sark, for instance. However, I have no such excuses. I am just such an addled, clouded and brain-fugged numpty that I am simply incapable of registering what is going on in front of my eyes. I now present evidence of this complete lack of cerebral function for illustrative purposes.

Hatherley: elusive
Celebrity one: Charlotte Hatherley

CLAIM TO FAME
Popular musician, former guitar player with the group Ash.
ENCOUNTER
Sunday 17th June 2012.
LOCATION
The Garage, Highbury - at the Ash 20th birthday party gig, where to be honest one might be expecting to run into people who are affiliated with the above act.
DISTANCE
No more than 18 inches.
EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES
I was looking the other way.

Buxton: stealthy
Celebrity two: Adam Buxton

CLAIM TO FAME
Radio and television presenter, actor and comedian. All-round renaissance man. Furry superhero. And one of my favourite funny people.
ENCOUNTER
Sunday 17th June 2012.
LOCATION
Ash20, The Garage, Highbury.
DISTANCE
No more than a foot. We may even have touched.
EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES
I was looking for Charlotte Hatherley.

Izzard: practically a ninja
Celebrity three: Eddie Izzard

CLAIM TO FAME
Britain's most internationally famous stand-up comedian of all time, actor on stage, television and big screen.
ENCOUNTER
Sunday 15th July 2012.
LOCATION
De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea
DISTANCE
10 feet
EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES
Very few. I was on the roof of the De La Warr Pavilion looking at the Italian Job-themed art installation, surrounded by the paraphernalia - cameras, lights, stage, refreshments - of the show that Izzard was to play in that location that very evening. My girlfriend also said to me, "look, there's Eddie Izzard". What part of all of that failed to sink in, I am unsure.

The Olympic Torch relay passes through where I live today. I am in two minds as to whether or not I should go to see it, largely because I will probably miss it. Even if it sets fire to my sleeve.

CONCLUSION AND SUMMARY
I am a fucking idiot.

Friday, 13 July 2012

It's...

... a page from the Monty Python's Flying Circus sticker album. Which does not in fact exist, shut up. (Click the picture for bigger)


Thursday, 12 July 2012

X is for African ground squirrel

The letter X presents something of a problem for any animal alphabetiser and it has been tackled in several different ways. Two snakes crossed over. An Ibex or some other animal with the letter X in its name flamboyantly stretched to purpose. The list goes on.

I was somewhat handicapped in this by the fact that I am a colossal pedant, so deeply autistic and damaged that I was determined to find an animal that begins with the letter X, no matter how arcane or stupid it may be. And I found one, thanks to genotypes and Latin, which is a great language let's face it. And Xerus is also the name of a spaceship. So space squirrels ahoy, get your crayons out.

Xerus

To download an A4-sized printable version to take a shit on, you can click HERE.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Olympic Trials

I pity the poor Londoner, so out of touch with the ways of the modern world. They are all kicking up such a lot of mountains out of so few mole hills, folks. The baffled and bewildered pearly kings and queens from the big smoke don't seem to realise that, obviously, if you want to host the sports day, then there are a few things that are going to have to change. Hopefully the whole experience will leave our gor blimey brethren more in touch with common sense security procedures and more willing to adapt.

When you delve into it a little deeper, you see how much fuss is being made over nothing. Life goes on as usual in the capital except for the following changes:
  • No buses
  • No trains
  • No tube
  • No-one to go out after 10 p.m.
  • No-one in East London allowed out until after October
  • Anyone living within 5 miles of Stratford to have ICBMs installed on roof
  • Duke of Edinburgh allowed to carry an elephant gun
It's a tempest in a tea cup by anyone's standards, and I'm pretty sure the Duke of Edinburgh was allowed to wander about with an elephant gun even beforehand.

However, there's always some moaners who, as soon as depleted uranium-tipped warheads are strapped to the walls and ceilings of their home, start darkly muttering about wanting to get out of the city until the Olympics and subsequent invasion of Iran is over. This could lead to a potentially critical refugee situation for the people who live in the outlying areas.

Some good eating on one of these beauties
For those concerned about it but whose councils have so far refused to put surface-to-cockney missiles on the roof of their housing, I present this handy guide to Londoner prevention.
  1. Confuse the Londoner - charging them under £4 for a drink should see them bewilderedly counting their change for long enough that you can wee in their shoes.
  2. If you suspect someone of being a Londoner, get a tracking device on them by secreting one in a plate of tasty jellied eels. Londoners cannot resist their slippery goodness.
  3. Claim that you ARE still in London. This may only work for places in Kent, Surrey, Hertfordshire, Essex or Middlesex. By the time they've reached Berwick-upon-Tweed the jig may well be up. In which case:
  4. Hide up a tree.
Remember, the Londoner is more scared of you than you are of the Londoner, so treat them kindly. Not least because they are pissed off and have fucking missiles attached to their house.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Cleaning shit off a wall with a toothbrush

The other evening my girlfriend put on one of her films, but despite my initial fears I did not die. The early signs were not good. It had Alan Arkin in it as an eccentrically curmudgeonly grandfather, which raised my fears that this film might prove to be heartwarming, or even worse, life-affirming. Oh no.

But luckily, Sunshine Cleaning was actually pretty good. I enjoyed it. The reason I enjoyed it so much is because it did that thing that so very few films do these days: realism. People are scared of realism in films. This is because realism is boring and drags on seemingly unceasingly. But just because something is boring, doesn't mean it can't be interesting. What I liked about Sunshine Cleaning is that it was just a story. No great message or theme particularly, just a story. Some stuff that takes place. Like life, things happened and, like life, they weren't resolved in their entirity within 91 minutes. No-one blew up or got hooked into a gritty smack battle or won any great battles or galloped about on a horse taking pot shots at vikings. In fact, a lot of the issues that the film addressed - bereavement, self-employment, emotional detachment, standards of business practice, the failings of the education system, social status, lesbianism - are only ever really skirted around, leaving the majority of the conclusions to the viewer's imagination.

I like this. It feels like we stuck our nose into someone else's business for an hour and a half and now we get to dream up what happened next. Every viewer does. I rather enjoy that. In my film, Emily Blunt drives around the southern United States on a lesbionic voyage of sexual discovery, while the other one gets married to the one armed man who works in the bleach shop and they have lots of moustachioed one-armed children. Alan Arkin makes some sort of bold business move and ends up having to sell a kidney. It was a good film, my one.

More films should be ultimately pointless and just drift past, causing the viewer to daydream. Who knows who Darth Vader could have been if they hadn't shot that particular fox and revealed everything? He could have ended up on a lesbionic voyage of sexual discovery in New Mexico, or selling a fibreglass shark to Alan Arkin. Maybe that bloke only had one arm because of a Light Sabre accident?

Amy Adams, that was the name of the other one.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Wimblemund 2012: day 13

Roger Federer (CH) bt. Andy Murray (GB) 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4

Well, bugger.

But Andy Murray played very well, let's give him that. I have serious doubts now that Murray truly believes he can win a Grand Slam match against one of the top three players, and it is true to say he has been grotesquely unfortunate to come along in the era of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Sadly for him, come along then he did. It's unthinkable to imagine a set of circumstances where all three fail to make it to a Grand Slam semi or final for the forseeable future, so barring a massive outbreak of rabies or SARS in the locker room, it's something he is nevertheless going to have to rise above. It will certainly make him a better player. And if it makes him a good enough player to finally nick one then no-one will be able to argue he didn't deserve it.

But now Andy Murray stands alone as the most losingest male player in Grand Slam tennis history, with four unsuccessful final appearances. Whilst that is not quite as impressive as some of the marks in history that Roger Federer can boast - indisputably now the greatest player in the history of men's tennis - it could be a lot worse for old Scotchcakes McFlapwing. This generation of British fans is lucky to have such a player to support in our now standard relentless waves of wild dreams and oestrogen, especially considering some of his predecessors in the role of Great British Male Tennis Hopeful. Roger Taylor and Tim Henman were affable yet ultimately doomed; Jeremy Bates wasn't really up to much and Buster Mottram combined uselessness with, as it later turned out, white supremacism. And even dour old Andrew Murray is loveable compared with that.

He made for a terribly exciting tournament.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Wimblemund 2012: day 12

Ladies' Singles Final Day

SUE BARKER: Hello and welcome to Wimbledon, where tomorrow Britain's Andy Murray will bid to become Britain's first Grand Slam-winning male tennis player since Virginia Wade in 1977. I'm joined by Lindsay Davenport and Tracey Austin. Lindsay and Tracey, it's Ladies' Final day, so the question on everyone's lips is: can Andy do it?

LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Almost certainly not.

TRACEY AUSTIN: He'll be lucky.

SUE BARKER: Well, it's not just Andy Murray's final tomorrow today, it's also the British Grand Prix at Silverstone which you can see live on the BBC. Our man Jake Humphrey is at Silverstone for qualifying, and Jake, what we all want to know is: can Andy Murray do it tomorrow in the British Grand Primbledon?

JAKE HUMPHREY: Hello Sue from a wet Silverstone, I wish that we had a roof over the circuit here like you do over at Centre Court where tomorrow Andy Murray bids to win everything.

SUE BARKER: Of course, today's final tomorrow is all part of a great summer of sport on the BBC - the Olympics starts at the end of this month and we've also enjoyed Euro 2012. Gary Lineker is our man in the Match of the Day Studio... Gary, with the whole world wondering if Andy can do it, how are England getting on in the European Championships?

GARY LINEKER: They're still out, Sue.

SUE BARKER: Well, 3 hours talking about Andy Murray is plenty of build-up for today's Ladies' Final, so let's go to our commentary team for today: David Mercer, Virginia Wade and Sam Smith.

DAVID MERCER: Thank you, Sue. Here come the players now, and you can see that Agnieszka Radwanska is deep in thought - probably wondering whether or not Andy can do it tomorrow.

SAM SMITH: Almost certainly, David, yes. But can he do it? That's what everyone who is here wants to know.

SUE BARKER: Well, that was quite some final, wasn't it? Let's not forget that tomorrow on the BBC you can find out live if Andy Murray will win the title, but let's just get the trophy ceremony out of the way. Here's our losing finalist. How do you think Andy will do tomorrow?

LOSING FINALIST: *Wracking sobs*

SUE BARKER: I know how you feel, it's been an emotional rollercoaster ever since Andy beat Nikolay Davydenko twelve days ago. A word now from the winning finalist. You've won today, do you think Andy Murray can win tomorrow?

WINNING FINALIST: It's pretty difficult to see how he can.

SUE BARKER: Well, thanks for that. I'll be back tomorrow at 6 a.m. to start the build-up for Andy Murray's first Wimbledon final. Now over to TV centre for the news, with Maxine Mawhinny.

MAXINE MAWHINNY: Thank you Sue. The headlines: [BUNF BUNF] Andy Murray will play in tomorrow's Wimbledon Men's Singles Final... [BUNF BUNF] Can he do it? We ask Ban Ki-Moon... [BUNF BUNF]...

Serena Williams won by the way. 6-1, 5-7, 6-2.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Wimblemund 2012: day 11

Roger Federer (CH) bt. Novak Djokovic (RS) 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3
Andy Murray (GB) bt. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (F) 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5

There was a moment during the first set of today's first Men's Singles semi-final match which I found very instructive. Roger Federer was serving and the camera angle, flat and low over the net towards Novak Djokovic, revealed a startling truth.

Because all the pre-match build-up - including several of those wretched, wretched, Hollywood film trailer-style preview pieces that now so festoon television coverage of live sport - would have us believe that we were about to witness two gods. Two gods stood atop a mountain peak each, perhaps on different continents. Pure diamond (nay, uranium) rackets in hand, they ream ball after ball back and forwards towards each other with cosmos-shattering power. Maybe it wouldn't even be a ball. Perhaps it would be a rock, the moon, or a bundle of oxen? Either way, they'd probably both be doing so while roaring; a deep and resonant murmur from the very core of the earth and tops the heavens. Flames licking out from around the bottom of their shorts, lives would be lost depending on the result, the cowed masses all yearning for a victory by their chosen one.

What we in fact saw was that the world's number 1 tennis player is in fact a gangly young Serb with fuzzy black hair, a face like Screech from Saved By The Bell and legs like two bits of spaghetti.

The human frailty of the great sportsman does not diminish their achievements at all, however. In fact, it portrays them in a more impressive light. I wish that televised sport would try and remember this just once in a while. Before the Olympics, at least. I'm not sure I can cope with any VT of Philips Oduwu punching a horse.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Wimblemund 2012: day 10

Agnieszka Radwanska (PL) bt. Angelique Kerber (D) 6-3, 6-4
Serena Williams (US) bt. Victoria Azarenka (BL) 6-3, 7-6(6)

It was Ladies' Singles semi final day today at Wimbledon, which normally means four chisel-faced ratbags howling like gibbons at each other for a few hours. However, today's games were rather more pleasant and engaging. Well, 75 percent of the time, at least.

A vignette from Centre Court this afternoon, during Serena Williams' victory over Victoria "stuck pig" Azarenka: the score is 6-3, 3-2; 15-0 to Williams, who is about to do a serve. A ball boy throws her another ball to pelt down at her bewildered rival. But alas, she fails to catch it and it rolls away.

Then a strange thing happens. If you or I were thrown a tennis ball and we didn't catch it and it rolled away, off we'd trot after it. But the mentality of the professional tennis player is so different. Serena Williams just stood completely still, staring at the middle distance, waiting for another ball to be thrown at her.

This is obviously something to which they have become so accustomed that it is ingrained within their psyche. I imagine that players who have been on the tour for 10 years or more can't stand still for any length of time before expecting a couple or three tennis balls to be tossed their way. Which would make waiting at the same bus stop as them perilous, if nothing else.

But who can blame them? The Wimbledon ball boys and girls do a sterling work. Very often they are so efficient that you won't even notice them for the whole fortnight of the tournament, unless Mansour Bahrami gives one of them a racket and asks them to be his doubles partner for a few points. But the service they provide is the very backbone of making a major tennis tournament function smoothly. And I want in. I don't want to be a ball boy, you understand. I want my own retinue of ball boys and girls to follow me around with tennis balls and towels and umbrellas and lemon barley water. I'd never want for anything ever again. Except possibly privacy.

If I had ball boys, then I would be happy. Promise.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Earth Stood Still, Again

People with reasonably decent memories or post-traumatic stress disorder will remember that in January I held forth on the subject of the classic 1950s sci-fi film The Day The Earth Stood Still and reached the potentially fearsome conclusion that I didn't like it much. However, now all bets are off because I am watching the almost definitely a good idea 2008 remake.

It's at the the early stages so far but the all the indications so far point to the frightening reality that the film's star, Keanu Reeves, is not going to be essaying the part of Gort - the eight-foot tall solid titanium robot who barely ever moves and is completely mute. If only Gort had had a cut-glass English accent, eh?

So far it's a very different film altogether. As with all modern films, it follows the now standard dictate that a film should have a beginning, a middle and an end but almost never in that order, with a weather eye on pissing me off. The film started in the mountains of India in 1927 with a bearded Keanu Reeves (he's almost definitely not going to be Gort is he? Bugger.) before jumping ahead to the modern day scientific community. Presumably Keanu Reeves, now 110 years of age, is going to lay some truths on the finest minds in astro physics, nuclear physics and civil engineering.

Gallingly, none of this is very likely to happen. On the plus side, a space rocket is about to crash land into Manhattan, an exciting film scenario but an eventuality which, if it ever happened in real life, would result in a war on Jupiter.

I am not sold on film remakes at all. If they are good remakes then they are, by their very definition, pointless. If they are bad remakes then all that they will do is hasten everyone's inevitable demise, as blood pressure skyrockets. The best that you can hope for is to aim at insane, camp, schlocky crap. The vaulting ambition of the modern day screenwriter, there.

Gort, a noted shit

Still, at least this particular remake isn't taking it scene-by-scene as some offenders in this category have done. A pointless, scene-by-scene remake of a film with Keanu Reeves in it and he doesn't even play Gort would be too much to bear. And as a film, it's not been so bad so far. Keanu Reeves has been largely absent and an opening credit sequence mention of John Cleese has mercifully so far proved to be a false alarm.

Perhaps he's going to be playing Gort.

But in this day and age of interwebs and wireless doohickeys and almost completely rampant piracy, it's damn near impossible to justify the remake of any film. Any impressionable youth worth his salt will just go and find the original on Netflix (yeah, right) or on a torrent site and watch that instead. And all the CGI Gorts in the world, mercifully inaccurate threats of John Cleese and performances considerably less restrained and dignified than that of Michael Rennie by Keanu Reeves will never be able to save it. Its $80 million dollar budget would have been better spent on saving the world from itself (this is, after all, the overall message of both films) or, even better, manufacturing us a real Gort.

Ain't no god damn preachy sumbitch aliens going to mess with our planet once we've got a fuckin' Gort.

Wimblemund 2012: day 9

Novak Djokovic (RS) bt. Florian Meyer (D) 6-4, 6-1, 6-4
Roger Federer (CH) bt. Mikhail Youzhny (RU) 6-1, 6-2, 6-2



My mother got me in to watching tennis, so a lot of this is her fault. It's been 25-odd years now, during which time we have watched many tennises together and exchanged many strident views about which players we like, which players we don't like and the way we think that the game should be played.

My mother is resolutely an aesthete. She likes her play to be clean and elegant with lots of skilful shot-making. Her favourite players of all time are Evonne Goolagong, Andre Agassi and Roger Federer. I also appreciate the fine art of the game of tennis but am more of a pragmatist. I realise that the object of the game is ultimately to win, and that only a fool wouldn't use every weapon in their arsenal to achieve this. So whilst my favourite player of all time is Roger Federer, I am also willing to accept that the high-impact style of Rafael Nadal - whilst not as artistically notable as Federer's game - is equally admirable. But at the same time, neither of us have ever been won over by the big servers - or rather, the big servers whose game seemingly relies on that and that alone.

I got to thinking about WEAPONS when I was watching Novak Djokovic's quarter final with Florian Meyer. Novak Djokovic did a serve at 128 mph. This is a very fast serve when you think about it, but in tennis terms it's fairly weedy. The mark for a truly fast serve has been around 150 mph for a number of years now: Andy Roddick was the first player of the modern era of reliable speed measurement to break the 150 mph barrier, serving at 155 mph in the 2004 Davis Cup. This mark stood until last year, when the giant Croatian Ivo Karlovic walloped a 156 mph serve in the same competition. Last month, though, Australia's Samuel Groth served at 164 mph at the Busan International Open in South Korea.

Roddick, Karlovic and Groth. Between them are just one Grand Slam singles title, won by Roddick at the 2003 US Open. Even on the grass at Wimbledon, where the speedy serve was long thought to reign supreme, Roddick's best performance is to be a three-time beaten finalist. Karlovic, too, has a career best Grand Slam performance in SW19, a beaten quarter-finalist in 2009. Groth, meanwhile,  is yet to even qualify for the final tournament.

The continued failure of these players -  whose game is so predicated on their serve firing on all cylinders -makes me perhaps wonder if somehow my mum and I have hexed those players on the tour with one Popeye arm into performing poorly. In theory, players with a relentlessly massive serve should make short work of Wimbledon, but aside from Pete Sampras - who allied his huge serve to an outstanding all-round game - and the accidental 2001 Men's Singles Champion Goran Ivanisevic, no-one yet really has. One of "our" players will always emerge and give you your comeuppance.

This power that we wield is formidable indeed. But it is not in itself one-dimensional. We're perfectly capable of turning on players who, theoretically at least, we should like. Lleyton Hewitt, for instance.

What a git.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Wimblemund 2012: day 8

Serena Williams (US) bt. Petra Kvitova (CZ) 6-3, 7-5
Angelique Kerber (D) bt. Sabine Lisicki (D) 6-3, 6-7(7), 7-5



Here's one - I don't like the Centre Court roof. POW. That was the sound of your mind being blown.

I don't. This year, Wimbledon weather at the start of the second week has been dreich. Thank heavens for Scotland and Scottish people, without which I would have not had a word at hand to describe the bloody awful dreary weather. But if you're prejudiced against our skirted brethren, then it is just that. The weather has been bloody awful, dreary weather. Drizzle. Rain. Wind. Like the weather people in other countries think the weather in the UK is like all the time, but in fact it isn't. Although at the moment it is.

These summers come about once in a while, though, and we have to work around it with our social whirl of super fun sporting and social events where people in striped blazers sit on boats and drink Pimm's. Wimbledon is one of the most striped blazer and Pimm's events going, and as such I would like to argue that putting a lid on Centre Court has ruined everything.

There's an air of unreality about the whole thing. We know that there's no such thing as a Wimbledon washout any more. Guaranteed live tennis every day for a fortnight! But at what cost? Well, eighty million pounds. But also tradition and good old-fashioned British spunk. I always get the feeling that these Centre Court matches are exhibition events, different from the normal draw. As such, I always feel a bit cheated that they are played by the world's best tennis players and count towards the tournament.

My solution: use the roof but then just use the time for actual exhibition tennis. Little and Large versus Mike and Bernie Winters in the men's invitational comedy doubles. But first, John Bishop plays a best-of-three set match against a bear for Sport Relief.

Letting Roger Federer go through to the semi-finals because he beat Jeanette Krankie in four can never be right.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Wimblemund 2012: day 7

Serena Williams (US) bt. Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ) 6-1, 2-6, 7-5
Sabine Lisicki (D) bt. Maria Sharapova (RU) 6-4, 6-3

It's the second Monday at Wimbledon. I have the TV on, switching between BBC1 and BBC2 to see the progress in two exciting ladies' singles matches, plus I have a live stream of Maria Sharapova's match with lovely Sabine Lisicki from the BBC website open in another tab as I type this. Although from the sound of it, it might actually be a porno.

In last night's exciting European Championship final between Spain and whoever the hell it was whose turn it was to get beaten up, Mark Lawrenson - a peculiarly alienated young man - said that he thought Spain had rather lost sight of the point of football, which is to win but to also score lots of goals and entertain the public.

I disagree. Professional sport is about winning. Nothing more and nothing less. Entertainment and unbridled scoring are always a nice bonus, but they mean nothing unless you win. I don't subscribe to the theory that losing is a disaster, merely that it is a bi-product of the inevitable fact that in any game or match in a sporting event, all the competitors will (or should) have only one objective in mind.

This is why I likes me some tennis. Tennis is all about the matchplay. Nicolas Mahut, the French player, holds the all-time record for the most points ever scored in a single match - 502 - but that occured in a match that he lost, the famous encounter with America's John Isner in the first round of Wimbledon 2010, which saw Isner prevail 70-68 in the fifth set.

I was reminded of this when watching Serena Williams' match today with Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazahkstan. In the previous round, Shvedova beat French Open finallist Sara Errani 6-0, 6-4, the former being only the second time ever in professional tennis that a player won a set without conceding a single point. When quizzed by the press afterwards about her Golden Set - the first in 29 years - Shvedova didn't even know she had achieved it. Indeed, last year she won the first 23 points of a match consecutively as well before double faulting on the 24th.  She didn't know she'd done that, either, apart from the double fault.

This is the way of tennis. Points don't matter, beyond the fact that accruing them is what gets you games and sets. Everything else - Golden Sets included - is just so much dressing or fodder for the McWhirter brothers. It's what makes tennis an interesting tactical game without compromising its excitement as a physical encounter.

Plus the balls are fuzzy, I like that too.

My only complaint about tennis at all, in fact, is that someone seems to have let Shvedova on the court today wearing black socks. Black socks? At Wimbledon? You might as well have a Hello Kitty vajazzle.

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