Sunday, 22 January 2012

The Sunday: Royal Yacht Edition

Slightly truncated version this week as I graduated on Friday and spent the rest of the weekend up north. The following represents my take on the week up to Thursday afternoon:

Would not have supported a Royal Yacht
Yacht you talkin' bout Willets?: Sorry, but it was too good a pun to let details get in the way. Michael Gove has taken most of the opprobrium for the deluded notion that the British public somehow owe someone whose grace-and-favour lifestyle they fund, a massive boat, but apparently he got the idea from David Willets. Now the Tories seem to have moved on to the idea that the burden for this massive waste of money should fall on the private sector rather than the struggling public purse (because I hear things are so great in the private sector at the moment there's a massive yacht-sized lump of cash floating around). More interestingly, however, the idea has also moved from the proposed boat being some kind-of Russian billionaire style play-pen for the Royal Family to the intriguingly barmy concept of it being a large sailing ship acting as a University of the Oceans. This floating centre of learning would apparently offer young people education in the maritime and environmental fields, provide them with lifelong individual and team-work skills, and teach them how to repel the Spanish Armada. That is, of course, as Mark Steel points out, when it's not being used to entertain Saudi arms dealers. And they say the Tories are out of touch...

Channel 4 News Bingo: So my office at the moment is next door to ITN headquarters. This presents itself with great opportunity for the worryingly giddy pleasure of Channel 4 News bingo. Bear with me. Channel 4 News Bingo is a game created by, participated in, and won, mainly by me. Though being the sole contestant gives me little chance to benchmark my performance against others, my record of Cathy Newman, Simon Israel and two John Snow sightings in the past month give me reason to believe I have a discernible talent in this area. Krishnan Guru-Murthy and I'm pretty sure I'll be heading to the soon-to-be-established News Bingo Hall of Fame.

Stewart Lee- Carpet Remnant World: So last Sunday me and a few friends went to the Leicester Square Theater to see Stewart Lee's latest show, Carpet Remnant World. Now Stewart Lee's had a surge in popularity in recent years thanks mainly to his BBC 2 Comedy Vehicle show- he even won Best Male Comic and Best Comedy Entertainment programme at the British Comedy Awards- but you get the sense that he rather wishes he hadn't. Watching Stewart Lee is unlike watching any other comedian- he is, one could say, a meta-comedian. He deconstructs jokes on stage, pointing out the different elements of humour in various puchlines and non-punchlines, segmenting the crowd into the different pockets of intellectual capability, some of which he satisfyingly plays up to, others that he (playfully?) showers with disdain. He's a craftsman, able to both build up and strip down his jokes, turning the separate component parts of a single joke into a collection of laughs. But was he any good?

The first half was top-form Stewart Lee as he covered topical material mixed with an undercurrent of effective snoobish contempt for pretty much the majority of mainstream comedy, UK and beyond. In the second half, however, the standard dropped somewhat. Part of Lee's schtick for Carpet Remnant World is that he has little material as he spends all his time these days either driving back-and-forth to gigs or looking after his four year-old son. If anyone can pull off a 90 minute comedy based on the premise of having no material it's him, but apart from a clever take on the old observational 'how come all jungle canyon rope bridges are broken?' joke (you know the one!), riffs on Twitter and world-based store titles weren't vintage Lee. In the end Carpet Remnant World is definitely a worthwhile hour and a half of comedy, way above what you'd get from most other comics, but for fans of 90s Comedian, 41st Best Stand Up Ever and even Comedy Vehicle it's overall a more mellow, soft-punching collection of material.

The Greatest Tennis Rages: Tennis is a sport set-up ideally for the in-game mental breakdown/subsequent rage. In team sports you can throw a hissy-fit but there's other players who are quite happy to keep playing leaving your histrionics underappreciated. Tennis being an individual sport means that should you choose to stop, play also stops, leaving you the centre of attention. Not only that, but it provides you with the perfect instrument with which to take your aggression out physically, an instrument who's carbon-fibre structure crumples in the most cathartic of fashions. The tennis rage can drag your play further into the mire, rejuvenate your game or just plain make you look stupid. Here are some of the best:

Marcos Bagdhatis, 2012 Aussie Open: Apparently there was a fly on the Melbourne courts that Bagdhatis failed to kill with his first racket...or his second...or his third...I think he got it with the fourth...

Mikhail Youzhny, 2008 Sony Ericsson Open, Miami: Full marks for Mikhail Youzhny for complete commitment and a willingness to put his body on the line for the sake of his anger. And they say Tennis is a non-contact sport.

John McEnroe, 1981 Wimbledon: A master at work. A reasoned argument, starting with a clear premise, supported by evidence, employing both a rhetorical question and finishing on the rule of three (with a cracking insult when denied). If McEnroe hadn't been a tennis player he'd surely have been a Barrister.

Serena Williams, 2009 US Open: You can't actually hear what Serena says on this clip but the beeps and gesticulations make it pretty clear she wasn't best pleased with the line judge. What makes this rage so good was that it came when Serena was match point down- the point penalty she got for the outburst ended the match giving Kim Clijsters the title. You've got to admire the prioritising of a expletive-filled outburst over the chance to actually win a Grand Slam- elite level raging!

Roger Federer, 2009 Sony Ericsson Open, Miami: Is there anything Roger Federer can't do. Not only is he both the greatest and most elegant player to ever grace the game, he also has perfect racket smashing technique. Federer smashes his racket like a skilled axeman chopping wood. Watch the beauty of the high backlift, the knee-bend, the left-arm pointing towards the target, the fluid motion as he brings the whole of his upper-body through the smash and even the head-flick away from the impact for safety purposes at the end. A thing of majesty.

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