August 2012


Yes, I realise that this should have been written on Sunday. Must do something about that.

This week’s Idiot of the Week Award goes to the Moon Landing Deniers.

Even if the moon landings were faked (which they weren’t), it’s still a better movie than James Cameron’s ‘Titanic’. Pic from worldofweirdthings.com

Following the death of Neil Armstrong on Saturday, his passing was noted by pretty much every news organisation on the planet. He’s one of the most famous humans in history. So much so that in a few hundred years, it’s quite possible that only three things from the twentieth century will be significant enough to be known by a typical eight-year old: the two world wars and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. While many people were recalling the achievement of Neil Armstrong and NASA on Saturday evening, the Moon Landing Deniers were reminding everyone that they don’t believe that it happened. I realise that a chunk of them like to call themselves Moon Landing Truthers or Moon Truthers but, either way, it’s pretty clear to whom I’m referring.  Discussions as to whether the Apollo missions actually reached the moon or the moon missions were all a hoax shot on a soundstage have been active since the mid-1970s, with flames initially fanned by Bill Kaysing’s self-published book We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle. Obviously the Flat Earth Society had some profound views as well.

Over the years, photos and video footage from the missions have been examined at great length by scientists and non-scientists, leading to a series of accusations and rebuttals on the topic. Short view: there are too many people in the world who make up their minds based on one or two badly-made documentaries by people looking for attention. There’s a comprehensive wikipedia page examining the claims and evidence, which is a nice embarkation point if you’d like to check out what people have been claiming for forty years. A simple google search for “moon hoax” will give you as much information on both sides (crazy and sane) as you’d ever need to know. To a committed conspiracy theorist, evidence is nothing compared to what they really know in their hearts so if you’re convinced that Stanley Kubrick directed a series of movies for NASA depicting faked landings on a holographic moon that is only 30,000 feet above the surface of the Earth, there’s nothing that anyone can say to convince you that it actually happened. Still, don’t worry – you won an award this week. Even if it’s the Idiot of the Week Award from someone you’d consider one of the sheeple. Everyone loves awards.

Here’s a two minute sketch from series 4 of That Mitchell and Webb Look. If we’re going to talk about moon landings, we may as well get a laugh out of them.

 

NBC was first with the story of Armstrong’s death and NBC staffers got everything correct in their tweet announcing that Neil Armstrong had died. Unfortunately, on the NBC website, they didn’t.

NBC’s announcement of the death of “Astronaut Neil Young, first man to walk on the moon”

We’ve all thought one thing and typed another. But just for the record, Neil Armstrong, first man to walk on the moon, died on Saturday. Neil Young, Canadian rocker who released an album called ‘Harvest Moon’, is still alive.

 

Dishonourable mentions:

 

The Todd Akin “legitimate rape” incident has turned into a minor saga since last week, mostly due to Rep. Akin deciding that he needed a bigger hole to sit in. He’s continued to dig down, hoping to find sanctuary, forgiveness and a group of voters who will assume that he’s just a misunderstood good ol’ boy. Let’s remember his original quote from last Sunday:

“Well you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, well how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

When his comments became international news, Akin’s first reaction was to assume that the problem was with the use of the word “legitimate”. He said that what he meant was “forcible rape”. Over the next few days, he gradually realised that the greater problem was with his statement that the female body has a built-in alarm system to prevent pregnancy when a woman is raped. He eventually said that his statement was incorrect, asked for people’s forgiveness and their prayers. One can reasonably assume that he’s made peace with his God over the issue as he sees him in the mirror every morning.

Rep. Akin has confirmed that he’s staying in the Senate race in Missouri, despite GOP leaders pleading with him to drop out and withdrawing central funding for his campaign. John Cornyn, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, accused Akin of “endangering Republicans’ hopes of retaking the majority in the Senate”. Since Akin’s comments were made public, his lead in Missouri opinion polls has turned into a nine-point lead for Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill. He’s clearly “endangering Republicans’ hopes of retaking the majority in the Senate”.

The Renegade Raging Grannies took some time out to record this song with a message for Todd Akin. As it’s sung to the tune of Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, it’s pretty darned catchy.

 

Most people have become used to the reality that large corporations are not charitable organisations and have profit-generation as their primary purpose. Still, no-one expected Chris Mahoney, director of agriculture trading at Glencore, to come out with this humdinger in relation to difficulties in feeding all the people on the planet: “The environment is a good one. High prices, lots of volatility, a lot of dislocation, tightness, a lot of arbitrage opportunities.” You could reasonably say that he’s just being honest – CEOs at some of the large food companies are probably rubbing their fists with glee as a result of the failure of local crops in the US Midwest and across Russia. Wholesale food prices have soared this year as crop yields have taken a beating, leading to food shortages across the world. With a few short comments, Mahoney managed to remind anyone listening that he’s planning on making a fat pile of cash out of it. There’s probably a team of PR people in his office trying to teach him how to act a little more sad about it.

 

Spare a thought for Ole Derje, the director of the Soli Brug Gallery in Greaaker (Norway), who has been saving his gallery some money, pennies at a time, by not using courier services to transport artworks bought for the gallery. This week a Rembrandt went missing in the post. Mr Derje said that the painting is worth 40,000 to 50,000 crowns. The Norwegian postal service is offering him compensation of about 2% of its value as it was sent via regular post. They have “advised him to use a more appropriate form of mail when sending items that are worth as much as this with the appropriate insurance connected”. Mr Derje has presumably now realised that all of the money he saved the gallery over the years by using regular post has been dwarfed by the amount of money lost when one parcel went missing.

 

Barack Obama is “110% behind our teachers”, according to a tweet from today. I realise that this is a personal bugbear of mine but this 110% thing has to stop. Saying that you’re 110% behind anything is bad enough on a regular day but when you’re president of the United States, you’re not helping. When you’re using the magic percentage to refer to supporting teachers, including mathematics teachers, you’re reaching for the idiot box. I didn’t think that Barack Obama would make the weekly list this early as he’s rather smarter than his predecessor but I’ve attached the tweet below for your own head-shaking pleasure.

 

Driving while intoxicated is a bad idea. It’s also illegal and rightly so. New Zealand forklift driver Ryan Scott Thompson was so drunk that he went off the road and ploughed his car into the living room of an elderly resident of Woodend, New Zealand at the end of July. His court case was last week, which makes him eligible for the week’s Idiot award. But there would have to be more to the story to make the cut and, of course, there is. It wasn’t enough that his blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit. While the police officer on the scene was taking some details, Thompson was busying himself by urinating into the box of breathalyser tubes. Yes, that’s right. He pissed all over 301 breathalysers without pausing. Apart from the expected driving ban and fine, he’ll also have to pay for the breathalysers. And suffer people poking fun at him on the Internet.

 

British para-cycling world champion Jon-Allan Butterworth has accused non-cyclist members of the UK’s Paralympic squad of “just having a laugh” in an interview with the Daily Telegraph. His blunt comments included: “The para-cycling team won 17 gold medals and three silvers in Beijing from a squad that was only 13-strong. Athletics had 30-odd people there and they won two golds, so where’s that money gone? Scrap all their funding, give it to cyclists and we’ll win double the medals we do already.” Coming only a few days after Lance Armstrong’s decision not to contest the US Anti-Doping Agency’s case that Armstrong had been using prohibited substances in his cycling career, it hasn’t been a good few days for the image of professional cycling. Butterworth apologised for his comments earlier today, after realising that other athletes would probably hear about them.


Tyra Banks seems intent on telling everyone that she’s a graduate of Harvard Business School following her completion of an Owner/President Management Program at the college’s open-enrollment extension school.  Tyra Banks is very far from a dummy but she’s not doing herself any favours here.

 

British smalltime shoplifter Marcus Banwell managed to outwit himself by chewing down on a Scotch Bonnet pepper that he’d lifted from the Singh Stores in Bristol. After drawing attention to himself by vomiting outside the shop, police discovered another four chilli peppers in his pockets (which he was presumably planning on enjoying later with a nice glass of milk and a hospital), a clarinet tucked into his trousers, determined to have been stolen from a nearby music shop, and some crack cocaine and heroin. A Scotch Bonnet pepper has a heat rating of 12-40 times that of a typical jalapeño pepper. Not recommended for consumption on an empty stomach. Or, if you’re me, ever.

 

Let’s close with something cute from the land of leprechauns (as I live in the land of leprechauns, I’m happy to remind you that there are no leprechauns).
The Irish Department of Finance has done some crazy things in the past decade. Failing to adequately respond to an overheating housing market, turning massive losses incurred by non-state-run banks into into debts owed by the state and taking an economy with effectively no unemployment into one with 15% unemployment in under four years. This could be true of most governments in Europe in recent times though. Here’s a new form of craziness: the Department of Finance is actively considering a change in car number plates next year to avoid the number 13. Even nuttier is that the proposed change won’t actually get rid of 13 from the licence plates – it’ll add a ‘1’ or ‘2’ to the end of the number. There are some other reasons for doing so – as the current system effectively groups all cars bought in the same calendar year for ageing purposes, the new system would make cars purchased after June seem newer to buyers. The government hopes that this will encourage more people to buy cars, thereby supporting the car sales market. Ireland has no car manufacturing industry and also has an issue with import-export trade balances. Clearly, this is a country that needs to import more cars.

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It’s been pointed out to me on a few occasions that a chunk of the links I post on facebook essentially do little apart from highlighting the level of twattishness that humanity reaches. I don’t think this should go to waste. Rather than limit this exposure to people on facebook who tolerate me, it might make the planet slightly better if I inflict it on everyone else. Hence, I’m planning on making this a weekly event. Obviously, there are but 52 weeks in a year so once a week isn’t nearly enough to cover the swarms of idiots that do idiotic things in public. It’s a start though. It’s worth noting a few things in advance. Someone generally acknowledged to be an idiot doing something typically idiotic isn’t necessarily noteworthy. Sometimes the fun is when someone who shouldn’t be an idiot starts acting like one. Sometimes it’s worth highlighting an event when someone performs true to their nature. Idiots occasionally do good things, if only by accident, and non-idiots do idiotic things. I wouldn’t take it personally. Except when I specifically advise that it should be taken personally. Enough. On with the finger-pointing.

The winner:

Marina Syrova, judge in the Pussy Riot case. Her arms are activated by two long strings, running directly from the Kremlin.

This week’s Idiot Award goes to Moscow judge Marina Syrova. Ms Syrova has been presiding over the Pussy Riot case in Moscow. Three members of Pussy Riot, a punk collective trio, were on trial during the past few weeks for “premeditated hooliganism performed by an organized group of people motivated by religious hatred or hostility.” They sang a song about Vladimir Putin in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral, on February 21. This performance came two weeks after a similar protest and arrest in Red Square on February 8, at which they also played a song mocking Putin. They were convicted last Friday (August 17) and sentenced to two years imprisonment in a penal colony. Passing sentence, Syrova said that the three group members had “crudely undermined the social order” with their actions. Defence lawyer Mark Feygin announced that the decision would be appealed but that the group would not seek a pardon from Vladimir Putin (what he actually said was: “They will not beg and humiliate themselves before such a bastard.”).

Syrova wins the award for two reasons. Firstly, the sentence that she imposed is stunningly disproportionate to the offence. Assuming that the decision is merely following Russian law on inciting hatred against religion, it’s a two year sentence for acting the ass in a church. Secondly, using a law against religious hate incitement to prosecute people who were taking part in a political protest makes a mockery of the law against incitement of religious hatred. Show trials were a feature of the old Soviet Union and this was little more than a show trial as a warning to other potential protesters and dissidents. Marina Syrova’s ruling and sentencing have highlighted that Putin’s sales patter of Russia being a healthy democracy is little more than a myth.

Here‘s the video of the Pussy Riot performance in Christ the Saviour Cathedral. It’s not exactly on a par with Arlo Guthrie but very few things are.


Dishonourable mentions:

Thai MP Boonsong Kowawisarat got in a spot of bother last Sunday night when he accidentally shot his ex-wife dead with a submachine gun at the dinner table. The victim, Chanakarn Detkard, was also his secretary. While waiting for his food to be delivered, he took out the gun and it discharged into her stomach. He told police that it was an accident. Who knows what thoughts were going through his head before he whipped out the gun. I assume they went something like: ‘I know what’ll impress her. I’ll just wave my Uzi around. Seeing as I’ve brought it with me to the dinner table anyway.’ Thai police have stated that the MP will be charged with negligence. As he has parliamentary immunity (which apparently stretches to discharging an Uzi at the dinner table), police told The Australian that “he will probably be called to hear the charge after the end of the parliamentary session”.

Some Russian anti-gay activists have sued US singer Madonna in a St Petersburg court due to her criticism of a city law adopted in March that imposes fines for “spreading homosexual propaganda”. Madonna spoke out against the city ordinance during her St Petersburg concert on August 9. Their lawsuit says that she “insulted their feelings” and they’re looking for ten million dollars to make it all better. Georgy Poltavchenko, governor of St Petersburg, signed the law last March. Anyone found guilty of “public action aimed at propagandising sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism, and transgenderism among minors” in the city may be fined an amount from 5,000 roubles (€126/$156) to 500,000. The law does not include a section where people whose feelings have been insulted are entitled to a large cash prize.

Todd Akin, currently running as a Republican for the US Senate in Missouri, dropped a bombshell today (Sunday) in a TV interview where he claimed that rape victims have biological defences that stop them getting pregnant (link includes a video copy of the interview). If you don’t have time to watch the video, what he said was: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” You can focus on the biology part. Or focus on the term “legitimate rape”. Either way, Todd Akin (it’s Akin, by the way, not Atkins – I can see plenty of search results on google for “Todd Atkins”) isn’t doing himself any favours by flaunting his stupidity like a kid with a balloon. He’s still hoping to be elected on November 4. With today’s quote in mind, it’s difficult to understand Rep. Akin’s current position as a member of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology in the House of Representatives.

It’s nice to take some time out every once in a while from the Olympic titans flexing their sport. At least, I find that it is. Also, I’m away, so I wrote this yesterday. Today (yesterday), I’m taking a look at the Internet reaction to the foot-stamping efforts of Piers Morgan when the number of Team GB athletes singing their national anthem was a bit too low for his liking. There are some embedded tweets in this post. If you can’t see them, then your browser isn’t working.

Piers Morgan currently presents Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN. He’s a former editor of the News of the World and the Daily Mirror. He dislikes people being rude to him. Clive Anderson took Morgan to task in 1996 while they were both on an episode of Have I Got News For You, saying “the last time I was rude to you, you sent photographers to my doorstep the next day”. Morgan’s reply was “You won’t see them this time.” There have also been highlighted arguments with Ian Hislop and Jeremy Clarkson. Piers Morgan was fired as editor of the Daily Mirror in 2004 when he authorised the front-page printing of faked photos of Iraqi prisoner abuse (not that it doesn’t happen but the photos were clearly faked).

Here’s his reaction to Chris Hoy winning a sixth cycling medal for Great Britain:

They say that you should accentuate the positive. Plenty of people never got that memo but most of them leave whining about details until later in the evening.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, is a man made up of all the world’s faults coming together in a single implausible entity. But he still managed to keep it nicely simple.

See? A non-backhanded compliment. That’s how people generally cheer. It’s how we’re taught to do it when we’re very young. When people do something good, cheer them on. Tell them that they’re great. Later on, you can let them know that their socks seemed odd, that their face had the strained look of a person on the toilet trying to expel an airliner and that it’d be, like, totally cool y’know if they bothered to sing the school song. It’s one of the most simple things that life teaches us.

Apparently, you’re not really British then.

It has shades of the Fox News view of Gabby Douglas as being unpatriotic by wearing a pink leotard while she won two Olympic gold medals (see Big Sporty Thing part 12). Because, apparently, what makes someone patriotic isn’t competing for their country on the biggest stage that sport offers – it’s whether they wear stars and stripes where people can see them or whether they sing along to the entirety of ‘God Save The Queen’. Especially the oft-ignored verse about crushing the Scots. Chris Hoy is Scottish, you know. He may have views on these things. Scotland’s had a long and complicated relationship with England and the British crown. Or maybe they don’t teach the national anthem in medal-winning cycling school.

Piers Morgan could have stopped there. Internet trolls rarely do, though. Relishing the attention, they tend to keep digging.

It’s not just Hoy, now – 39% of gold-medal winners from the UK need to be taken to task. Those singing classes are going to be very full when August ends. All attendees shall be taught to love the queen, to love the song and, most importantly, to remember that the Boogie Man will be watching them at all times to ensure that they sing the song, regardless of how emotional they’re feeling or how exhausted they are. That’s why 92% of Chinese winning athletes sing their anthem, after all.

One of the things I love about ‘western’ society, imperfect as it is, is the freedom to make certain choices. Choosing whether or not to attend the state parade. Choosing which news source to believe – or, alternatively, to believe none of them. Choosing which god in which to believe – or, alternatively to believe in none of them. Choosing whether or not to sing a particular song. Without being beaten.

The latest salvo from Piers Morgan is to offer £1000 to Great Ormond Street Hospital every time a British gold-medallist sings the national anthem after their medal ceremony. While that might be an altruistic gesture, it also puts Olympic medallists in a position where not singing the anthem takes money from sick children. That’s not altruism. It’s the rich guy pushing someone into doing something that they mightn’t want to do. And that’s not right.

The winning putdown belongs to @mrcolmquinn, back on August 2nd. While there’s a picture being forwarded on the Internet that shows the reply coming from Bradley Wiggins, he wasn’t the source. No less of a winning shot though, regardless of whence it came.

I’m aware that what Internet trolls want is attention so they should be ignored. Unfortunately, giving someone 15 minutes in the spotlight doesn’t apply when they’re already plonked in the middle of the stage. Idiocy should be called. Piers Morgan is an idiot. Or he’s doing a really good impression of one for the sake of attention. That would make him a troll. It’s a troll or an idiot, then.

Enjoy the rest of the Olympics. If you’re a medal winner, cry if you want to. Sing if you want to. If someone criticises your performance, they may not have a point – or they may. If someone criticises you for not singing when you’re apparently supposed to, they’re an idiot.

London’s Big Sporty Thing (part 13)

A frog pole vaulting. No golds, no medals, no glory. He just likes it.

North Korea finally gets the news that they’re naughty, a German swimmer calls for a dictator, pillar box graffiti is on the rise and there are unwanted condoms in the Big Sporty Village. There was also some sport on Wednesday.

Unofficial condoms hit the Olympic Village

The Durex company is in a huff, following the discovery of rival condoms in the Olympic Village. Australian BMX rider Caroline Buchanan caused consternation at Durex headquarters by tweeting a picture of a bucket containing condoms from competing manufacturers Ansell and Pasante. London Olympics organisers have asked athletes not to distribute the non-Durex condoms as Durex is the official supplier of condoms to the Olympic Village. Durex supplied 150,000 condoms for the use of the 10,800 athletes at the Games. So far the supply has been sufficient, though there are four nights remaining in the Olympic Village.

Arrested cycling fan wants “exoneration”

A Parkinson’s sufferer arrested by Surrey Police during the men’s cycling road race is seeking a “letter of exoneration” from the police force. Mark Worsfold claims that police at the race questioned him about his demeanour, focusing on why he appeared not to be enjoying the event. He was handcuffed and taken to Reigate police station. “The man was positioned close to a small group of protesters and based on his manner, his state of dress and his proximity to the course, officers made an arrest to prevent a possible breach of the peace,” said a statement from the Surrey Police.

Worsfold was discovered by police officers to have a number of knives in his possession. After long examination by forensic authorities, these were discovered to be made from rubber. He was released after two hours.

Graffiti and those shiny gold post boxes

Putting graffiti on post boxes repainted gold to celebrate Olympic victory is a growing pastime in the inner cities, with two defaced in the past two days. British rower Kat Copeland’s commemorative post box was defaced yesterday, with nicknames scratched into the surface. A post box in Sheffield, painted gold to commemorate the gold medal by Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon, required some rework when the decoration was embellished with a “Go Jess” message. UK post boxes were first painted red in 1874 to make them more obvious, as people kept walking into them when they were painted a dull shade of bronze green.

Kat Copeland and Sophie Hoskin following their rowing victory. Gold pillar boxes were not on their minds.

Naughty Korea: not angry, just disappointed

The Korean Central News Agency has issued a blunt statement, attacking Brisbane newspaper the mX for referring to North Korea as “Naughty Korea” in a medals table printed in the newspaper last week. According to the agency statement: “The paper behaved so foolish [sic] as to use the London Olympics, that has caught the world interest, for degrading itself … Editors were so incompetent as to tarnish the reputation of the paper.”. It is unclear whether North Korea will unleash its rumoured nuclear arsenal on the Australian daily newspaper.

Continuing its irreverent humour, the mX has also printed a medals table where silver is more important than gold, “for reasons of national [Australian] pride”. Naughty Korea failed to make the top five.

The mX medals table. Probably the greatest free daily newspaper in the world.

Germany needs a dictator

Roland Matthes, a four-time Olympic gold medallist for East Germany, waded into some trouble in the past few days when he claimed that German swimming “needs a dictator(here‘s the original story in German) as a solution to his country’s lack of success in the swimming pool. For the first time in 80 years, Germany has failed to secure a single Olympic medal for swimming.  Matthes is the second German athlete to make public reference to the far-right as desirable in the past fortnight. Nadja Drygalla, a German rower, was sent home due to her connections with far-right organisations in her home town. German news outlets have been highly critical of the country’s performance at the London Games. Die Zelt has highlighted the higher payments by other countries to winning athletes as a problem. German gold medallists gain a €15,000 cash bonus from their national Olympic council. Gold medallists from the United States are given €25,000, while a Malaysian gold medallist would secure €500,000. British athletes are given a thank-you and a commemorative pillar box.

Vangelis: ching ching

Greek composer Vangelis has revealed that every time his theme for ‘Chariots Of Fire’ is played at the London Olympics, he gets a penny. The theme has been played at every medal ceremony since the beginning of the Games, as well as hundreds of times in the staff canteen. While organisation heads are concerned about all staff now working in slow motion, Admiral Lord Sebastian Baron Coe insists that the theme be played over breakfast. Since mid-July, the composer has earned six million pounds in royalties. Boris Johnson has offered him all of Tower Hamlets in lieu of a cash payment. The composer has yet to reply to the offer.

In other news…

David Cameron made sure to be seen at Nicola Adams’ semi-final win in boxing yesterday. He waved at crowds during the fight in the hope that someone would take his picture… 2400 drivers have been issued with fines for driving in Olympic Family-only lanes… Hurdler Dai Greene is in a spot of bother for calling a tweet from Martyn Rooney the “gayest tweet of the day”… The BBC has come up with an explanation as to why they occasionally forget the names of Olympic competitors at the London Games that are not British. They wrote it down but have unfortunately forgotten it. Update to follow.

London’s Big Sporty Thing (part 12)

Cycling hamsters. If hamsters were people, this would totally be an Olympic sport.

Australia breathes a sigh of relief, the wah-wah about magic cycling wheels carries on, Ireland gets annoyed at the Daily Telegraph and Fox News just can’t help themselves. Tuesday’s Big Sporty Thing was an Olympic day like any other: people mostly getting annoyed at other people.

Australians happy because they’re better than New Zealand

Australians found cause for celebration last night, as their country took a jump up the medals table. Two gold medals (Anna Meares in cycling and Sally Pearson in the 100m hurdles) propelled the continental landmass into eleventh place in the table. Fears that Australia would move to annex New Zealand appear to have disappeared since the larger country eclipsed its smaller neighbour. New Zealand remains 17th in the medals table. According to Australian commentators: “It doesn’t matter if we beat the Yanks or the fricking Chinese. Or even the Poms. But if we don’t beat the bloody Kiwis, then we’re a total failure as a country. The New Zealand Prime Minister is expected to send a telegram to his Australian counterpart later today, congratulating her for not leading a total failure of a country.

The Sydney Telegraph has given Australian coaches the credit for being behind at least 14 gold medals not won by Australia. According to the opinion piece, posted yesterday, “Australian coaches are giving Australians black eyes all over London.” Meanwhile, Australian Federal Sport Minister Kate Lundy is preparing to make good on a bet with UK Sport Minister Hugh Robertson. Ms Lundy bet Mr Robertson at a meeting in Melbourne earlier this year that Australia would win more gold medals than Great Britain during London2012. Ms Lundy will row up the Eton Dorney course, wearing a Team GB uniform. Tomato sellers are preparing for a bumper week of sales.If Mr Robertson had lost the bet, his penalty would have been to dribble a hockey ball around Australia House in central London, while wearing a Kookaburras hockey uniform.

Australia plays the United States in the men’s basketball quarter-finals this evening at the Not The O2 Arena. Chances of an Australian medal may be measured with an electron microscope.

The wheels on the suspicion bus go round and round…

French cycling authorities continue to believe that Team GB has been using magical powers to gain success in the cycling velodrome. Adding to her earlier ponderings on whether British cyclists have “found a new training process based on certain energy pathways” (see previous Big Sporty Thing updates), French team director Isabelle Gautheron yesterday speculated that winning cyclists may have “put a mechanism or a sort of gear inside [the wheels]”. It appears that the confusion among the French may have sprouted from an interview which L’Equipe conducted with British Cycling performance director David Brailsford. When asked by French reporters about the secret of British cycling success, Brailsford told the magazine that the British had adopted round wheels as a method of winning (youtube video, 47 seconds). “Specially round”, he added. The following day, L’Equipe ran this as a headline.

David Hoy, father of six-time gold-medallist Chris Hoy, took a simple approach to the controversy when asked for his opinion: “You’ve got to upset someone. It might as well be the French.” Mr Hoy’s views on the sixteenth century annexation of Calais by France have not been made public.

Speaking of ‘special’, here’s Fox News.

Fox Sports reporters came up with a splendid play on words for their Olympic News webpage when Hamid Soryan took a gold medal for Iran in Greco-Roman wrestling. “It’s In The Baghdad” was emblazoned across their Olympic Wrestling page. Unfortunately for the headline writers, Baghdad is the capital of Iraq rather than Iran. Mr Soryan is from Iran and competed for Iran in Olympic wrestling. He is unlikely to defect to Iraq in a time-frame that would suit Fox News.

Note to Fox Sports: The capital of Iran is Tehran. The capital of Iraq is Baghdad. As your reporters have spent the past ten years in Iraq, you should know that.

Buoyant after a win by Gabby Douglas for the United States in gymnastics, Alisyn Camerota (host of ‘America Live’ – yes, I’ve spelled her name correctly) took some time out to question her patriotism for wearing a pink leotard during competition. Her guest, David Webb (founder of political group Tea Party 365) said that the colours worn exemplify a “slight anti-American feeling”. Webb waved a miniature American flag while criticising the grey uniforms worn by United States athletes during the medal ceremonies. Ms Douglas spent much of last week defending the way she styles her hair while competing. While she uses clips and a ponytail holder to keep her hair in place during competition, thousands of critics on twitter declared that she should wear her hair in the gymnastics-traditional bun. Aged 16, Ms Douglas became the first US gymnast in Olympics history to win individual and team gold medals.

Here’s the Fox News discussion (or click here). It’s a few minutes well spent. You can choose yourself whether to laugh or cry.


When athletes go missing…

Seven members of the Cameroonian Olympic squad have “disappeared from the Olympic Village” since last weekend. Five boxers, a swimmer and a footballer have gone missing. It is unclear whether French cycling authorities will cite this as another example of the magical powers pervading the Olympic Games.  It is clear that the Daily Mail will cite this as another example of foreigners going missing in the UK. All athletes have travel visas allowing them to stay in the UK until November.

Irish annoyed at the Daily Telegraph

Thirty million Irish people exploded on twitter this morning, following an article in the London-based Daily Telegraph which depicted Irish boxer Katie Taylor as British. Irish commentators were at some pains to point out that the country has been independent of the United Kingdom (which competes at the Olympics as ‘Great Britain’) for the past ninety years. The Telegraph, which is generally extremely clear on the original nationality of everyone mentioned in the broadsheet newspaper, later apologised for the article. It is expected to be the main topic of conversation across Ireland for another week. The Daily Telegraph editorial team is currently in a bloody debate as to whether 10,000m gold medallist Mo Farah is British.

The Daily Telegraph. Losing many years of goodwill built up with Irish readers.

Update due to my not writing anything until after lunchtime: Katie Taylor won her semi-final bout against Mavzuna Chorieva of Tajikistan. Audience members at the bout repeatedly sang ‘The Fields of Athenry’, an Irish folk ballad written in the 1970s about an Irish peasant who stole corn belonging to an English landlord. Fifteen Telegraph journalists have been assigned to examine the significance of corn in the Irish mythos.

In other news…

A postbox painted gold to celebrate Jessica Ennis’ victory in the heptathlon has been “defaced”… The British Olympic Council has announced details of a victory parade for Olympic and Paralympic athletes in September. Organisers were careful to wait until some gold medals had been won before announcing the parade…

David O’Sullivan kindly sent me a link to this Olympic Punning video. Most of them are painful. That’s kids these days, with their sugar. As Dave said, number 18 is probably the best.

Update: @froodie has informed me that Olympic Punning Video girl is Hannah Hart of ‘My Drunk Kitchen‘. It’s worth a look as it involves drinking and kitchens.

London’s Big Sporty Thing (part 11)

North island for sheep. South island for hobbits. West island for a big sandpit where medals get stored. Sorry, native peoples, you lose out again.

Funky muffins and dodgy somethings cause two competitors to be eliminated, France is worried about illegal levels of magic being used by British cyclists and there’s another solution from Australia for the NZ problem. It was an interesting Monday.

That’s all, folks
US judoka Nicholas Delpopolo and Italy’s long-distance walker Alex Schwazer have become the latest competitors to be sent home without any supper. Delpopolo tested positive for cannabis following his seventh place in the 73kg judo event over the weekend. According to the judoka, he consumed the substance without his knowledge a few weeks ago in some baked goods which were made by a family member. He followed the brownie consumption with a four hour sleep, during which he dreamed of pixies battling goblins in a mystical adventure set in a displaced Neptune of an adjoining universe. Mr Delpopolo stated that the first suspicion he had that there might have been something unusual in the brownies was when his drug test revealed that there was something unusual in his bloodstream. He finished seventh in the competition rankings. A hastily-scribbled statement from the International Olympic Committee pointed out that “what works for Michael Phelps does not work for everyone”.

Alex Schwazer, Italy’s most celebrated walker, has been removed from the London Olympics after failing a pre-Games drug test in his home country. While the banned substance has not been revealed, the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) announced yesterday that Schwazer has ben sent back to Italy. The athlete won a gold medal for walking at the 2008 Beijing Games, setting a new 50km walk world record in the process. He was expected to defend his title next weekend. He had been entered for last Saturday’s 20km walk but withdrew, citing a cold. Schwazer, who works as a police officer, had previously condemned doping, before making the discovery that it might aid his performance. Walking is a highly technical sport and is rated by athletics experts as one of the most demanding events in Olympic Games competition. Competitors are required “to maintain contact with the ground and straighten their front knee when the foot makes contact with the ground, keeping it straightened until the knee passes under the body”.  Despite the high regard in which walking is held by humans, it has not always been free from controversy. Scandal swept through the 1906 Intercalated Games in Athens following the 1500m walk event, when the first two finishers were deemed to have cheated by running. The race was awarded to US athlete George Bonhag, despite spectators criticising his walking style, which involved skipping to the finish line.

But wait, there’s more!
Algerian middle-distance runner Taoufik Makhloufi has won an appeal against his exclusion from today’s 1500m final. After winning his semi-final, Makhloufi was forced to compete in the 800m race as his team failed to withdraw him from the shorter distance. He jogged for the first 300 metres before dropping out. An IAAF statement read: “The referee considered that he had not provided a bona fide effort and decided to exclude him from participation in all further events in the competition”, which has been translated by Babelfish translators as “forgot to say ‘ow’”. Algerian sports authorities protested that a knee injury forced Makhloufi to drop out of the event. According to the IAAF, he needed to supply “a note from a doctor, saying, like, that he was totally sick” to regain his place in today’s final.  Having supplied the required documentation as well as a reality check from his mother, he will be allowed to compete.

Coates: “When I said 46, I meant 30. I think.” Lundy says all is well.
John Coates, president of Australia’s Olympic Committee, has downgraded his expected Olympic medals haul for Australia from his previously-declared estimate of 46 to a new expectation of between 30 and 36. He criticised the lack of funding for sport in Australis before explaining that his initial expectations have not been met by London 2012 athletes. Federal Sports Minister, Kate Lundy, strongly disagreed with Coates’ view of the drop in gold medals for Australia since Beijing, saying: “They’re on the podium. We’re still up there with the best of the best.” In other news, Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia. Chocolate rations will be increased this week from 45 grammes per person to 30 grammes per person, demonstrating the continued success of the economy. New Zealand has been scientifically demonstrated to be a myth. Sea monsters are roaming the streets at night and therefore the benevolent government has imposed a curfew for the safety of all citizens. Prepare yourself for your new, happy life.

Welcome to Aus Zealand, mate!
The Sydney Daily Telegraph has offered a solution to Australia’s disappointing performance in the medals table: combine Australia with New Zealand. The smaller country of New Zealand has so far won three gold medals, while Australia has won only two. Last night, Australia was placed 19th in the medals table, with New Zealand four places higher. A third gold medal for Australia would push the country to 12th, just below North Korea. The success of the proposal is now in doubt as New Zealanders expressed some dismay following Tom Slingsby’s victory yesterday in the men’s laser swimming for destroying a currently popular national joke – “New Zealand has just won gold, Australia has just one gold”. The proposed new territory of Aus Zealand still lies behind Kazakhstan in the medals table but manages a top-ten placing which has so far been achieved only by New Zealand on its own.

US news outlets are unlikely to adopt the model by claiming Canada’s medals as American, as the move would still result in China topping the table at present. Even adding Mexico would unfortunately still yield the same result.

Aus Zealand’s placing in the medal table. Ninth. There will be fireworks.

Magic Wheelz and Trickery
Team France is concerned about Team GB’s cycling success, with team director Isabelle Gautheron asking L’Equipe if Britain has “found a new training process based on certain energy pathways.” So far, Great Britain has won nine medals at the London Olympics, including six golds. France has secured three silver medals. “We know that they work with McLaren,” she added and speculated that British scientists may somehow have invented a better wheel. Talk of witchcraft has taken over at the breakfast table of French cyclists, with competitors reportedly looking for sacred ley lines near Stratford, on which they can have nightly relations with their bicycles to improve performance. French officials have been sent to search the surroundings of the Big Wheelz Arena every evening to check for illegal wizardry. Ms Gauthron has also proposed to French track cycling authorities that they abandon their traditional square-shaped wheels and adopt round wheels for competitive cycling in the future.  “The speed gain is difficult to explain but I think it might be an advantage,” she said. French square wheel manufacturers and national unions are expected to object.

In other news…
Sprint phenomenon Usain Bolt has requested a trial with premiership side Manchester United. It was reported on page 1 of The Sun but might still be true… American rower Henrik Rummel had a trouser malfunction during the medal ceremony for the coxless four, when he was apparently really pleased to see his bronze medal. Fourth-placed Greece may choose to object on grounds that the team was no longer coxless… Michael Phelps has been awarded a special trophy for winning 22 medals at the Olympic Games, when he’d probably have preferred a nice set of golf clubs… Soft rock supremo and militant vegetarian Morrissey has revealed that he no longer likes the Olympics as he finds them quite nationalistic. Irony detectors have been exploding around his Rome house all morning.

London’s Big Sporty Thing (part 10)

Usain Bolt (right) and former partner Wenlock (left). The two have been engaged in a bitter custody battle over their child (pictured) for three years.

Ben Ainslee verbally slaps Gary Lineker, obvious joke about Usain Bolt and there’s a nut on the loose with a beer bottle. Who thought that they hold the men’s 100m final on Sunday as there’s nothing else of interest…

Jamaica, we have a bobsleigh team
Celebrated sprinter Usain Bolt last night announced his defection from athletics to the winter sport of bobsleighing. Having been approached by an implausibly fat white man minutes after his 9.63 gold medal-winning performance in the 100m sprint yesterday evening, Bolt has recruited fellow Jamaican sprinters Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake to his proposed team. The fast-talking fat man won Bolt over with a ten second elevator pitch of a new idea: “World-class sprinters… in the bobsleigh!” Bolt hopes to add Nesta Carter to the team as soon as Carter finishes his degree course at Harvard Law School. Jamaica has a long tradition in the winter sport of bobsleigh, having first competed at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Former Jamaican competitor Lascelles Brown, who now competes for Canada, has won two Olympic medals for the sport. Although Jamaica won a gold medal at the 2000 World Push Championships in Monaco (youtube link), in recent years, the team has been lacking success. Bolt is adamant that the presence of four world-class sprinters on the team will result in considerable success at Sochi in 2014. Film studios worldwide are competing for the movie rights, in the hope that the story will be appealing.

Following Bolt’s victory, newspaper editors across the planet were deluged by requests last night from journalists who wanted to use puns related to ‘Bolt’, ‘lightning’, ‘streak’, ‘strike’, ‘flash’, ‘thunder’and ‘zoom’. While many of these requests were granted, subeditors altered many pages that contained ‘streak’ and ‘flash’ due to considerations for the well-being of the aged and the infirm.

One bottle of beer on the track, one bottle of beer…
A spectator has arrested by London’s Metropolitan Police for throwing a bottle on to the track just before yesterday’s 100m sprint final. Unfortunately for the offender, he was sitting next to world judo champion Edith Bosch when he chose to throw the missile. She hit him on his back with her hand, preventing him from throwing himself after the bottle. The bottle landed behind the sprinters and there was no disruption to the event. It is not known how a spectator managed to smuggle a glass bottle into the stadium. Usain Bolt has expressed some dismay at dissatisfied audience members being allowed to bring bottles while he was blocked from entering the Olympic Stadium wearing a tie and carrying his skipping rope. Speculation is mounting that the bottle-thrower was defrocked priest and infamous troublemaker Neil Horan, as he has very short arms.

Dear crazy suicide bombers…
Terrorists across western Europe expressed excitement yesterday that uniforms given to Big Sporty Thing volunteers are popping up on auction sites. As the first batch of volunteers finished their week’s duties, listings for watches, footwear and official uniforms began appearing on Internet auction sites. Officially known as ‘Gamesmakers’, volunteers are allowed to keep the uniforms, printed guides, nuclear launch codes and bright-red Swatches with which they were issued at the beginning of the Games.  Last week, Gamesmakers were asked to bring a spare shirt to work so that they could let it rest on an empty seat.

Mad, bad and dangerous to know
Canadian rider Tiffany Considerably-Toffish expressed confusion yesterday when she was blocked from entering the 3000m steeplechase on her horse Victor. Officials were surprised when the horse cantered into the Olympic Stadium, ridden by Ms Considerably-Toffish, as all equestrian events are being held at Greenwich Park on the south side of the Thames. She mounted a small press conference outside the stadium entrance after dismounting Victor, during which she “curse[d] Sebastian Coe to hell for wasting [her] valuable time”. Ms Considerably-Toffish was later seen taking her horse into Stratford tube station, asking for directions to the water polo venue. Victor was unavailable for comment. The race was won by Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya, without the use of a horse.

Ohuruogu pestered by a candy man
Athletes biting their medals finally bore, um, fruit, last night as Britain’s Christine Ohuruogu discovered that her 400m silver medal was just a silver wrapper over a chocolate disc. Rushing to the podium to congratulate her, Willy Wonka of Cadbury’s announced that her “real prize” will be a trip to a day-long tour of Cadbury’s chocolate factories throughout the UK. Ms Ohuruogu looked less than amused until she was also presented with a silver medal. Andy Murray, triumphant winner of the men’s singles tournament held at Wimbledon (but not ‘Wimbledon’) instantly bit into his medal to see if he would also find a golden ticket or chocolate disc. His unsuccessful attempt gained him a trip to the dentist tomorrow. Hundreds of placed athletes have been biting their medals all week at the prompting of photo-journalists. There are four Cadbury’s-sponsored trips remaining to deserving children.

Greatest UK TV moment ever:
Gary Lineker to gold-medal sailor Ben Ainslie last night on BBC1: “Will you get back in the boat for Rio in 2016?”
Ben Ainslie to Gary Lineker: “Will you still be hosting Match of the Day in 2016?”
Unfortunately, it seems that Gary Lineker couldn’t hear what the just-medalled Ben Ainslie was saying. As yet, there are no youtube videos of the exchange.

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