Thursday, July 31, 2008

Olympic Countdown #10

With 9 days to go before the start of the Olympics, I thought it apt to do a top 10 list of Olympic moments I wish I had been there for (ok I meant to start the list last night, but the internet censorship story got in the way!)

The Times of London has come up with a top 50 list of greatest Olympic moments. Now I’m not planning on doing a "best of" list. This list is events I wish I had seen, so I won’t list Mark Spitz’s 7 Gold medals in Munich, because (a) I’m not much of a swimming fan – and certainly couldn’t be buggered forking out the money for a ticket to see a sport that is a heck of a lot better to see on TV, and (b) because you couldn’t have seen him win all 7 medals in one day.

Ditto Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10 in Montreal. I’m not one for gymnastics – and certainly not women’s gymnastics. I don’t like sports that are decided by a subjective vote, and I hate sports where it is an advantage for you to still be a child.

The list is in no particular order.
Paris, Thursday 10 July 1924. Nurmi wins the 1500m and 5,000m

On this day, the great Paavo Nurmi did what no athlete will ever do again – he won the 1500m and then 2 hours later he won the 5,000m. He won both in Olympic Record time, and it wasn’t like he was competing against nobodies - in the 5,000m he beat his Finnish teammate Ville Ritola who himself won 6 Gold medals.

Four years earlier in Antwerp, Nurmi had won Gold in the 10,000m and Silver in the 5,000m (and also Gold in the now defunct Cross-Country and Team Cross-Country). But for Paris he was even more determined, he wanted to win the 1500m, 5,000m, 10,000m and the cross-country. He did win all except the 10,000m – the Finnish officials did not allow him to enter it as they felt he was in too many events.

The legend is that while the 10,000m final was being run, Nurmi in protest (he was a fairly prickly character by all accounts) ran on a training track outside the stadium and broke the world record. Whether this is true or not (and I tend to believe it) a month later he set the 10,000m world record of 30:06.2 that would last for 13 years.

On 10 July he won the 1500m in his usual manner – front running while holding a stopwatch to pace himself – and he won easily by one and half seconds. Two hours later his opponents in the 5,000m assumed he might be feeling a tad weary and so decided to set a frantic pace – in fact they went out so fast that they went through the first 1000m at the same pace as would be set in the 5,000m final at the Munich Games in 1974.

As is to be expected the field faltered and over the last 8 laps only two runners remained – Nurmi and Ritola. Nurmi stayed in the lead looking at his stopwatch. With 500m to go Nurmi unleashed his kick for home. Ritola matched him and with 20 metres to go tried to pass. Nurmi held him off and won by 0.2 sec in 14:31.2.

So great was this feat that no one until Hicham El Guerrouj in 2004 would do the 1500-5,000m double (Bernard Lagat of the USA via Kenya will attempt it in Beijing), and yet Guerrouj did not have to do it on the same day, and in my opinion was gifted the 5,000m due to the pace being so slow that it came down to who could run the last 200m the fastest. Nurmi won a great race and was pushed all the way.

But as great as that day was, even better would to have been in Helsinki a month earlier when Nurmi decided to ready himself for the Games by running the 1500 and 5,000m, 55 minutes apart. He broke the world record in both.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dogs and Fleas

This afternoon the startling news was released that China will continue to censor the internet during the Olympics. In other 'hold the press' news, attractive people have been found to be more popular, cigarettes can kill you, and Elton John prefers the company of men.

Now, I love the Olympics. I can remember getting a medallion to commemorate the Montreal Games in 1976 – which, as I was only 4 at the time, is getting close to one of my earliest memories - before the 1980 Games I was enthralled by watching the Bud Greenspan “Olympiad” documentaries (sadly not on DVD), and I was probably the only 10 year old going around whose idol was Emil Zatopek.

But the Beijing Games are making it hard for people to stay in love with the Olympics.

Beijing was chosen as the Olympic host on 13 July 2001. It had long been Juan Antonio Samaranch’s dream for China to get the Games (mostly, it is suggested out of his hope to win the Nobel Peace Prize – which would've been quite a feat for a former Minister under the Franco regime).

It was almost literally the last decision to occur during his reign as head of the IOC; on 16 July Jacques Rogge took over.

Rogge must have wondered what he had done to deserve it.

The IOC Evaluation Committee Report on the bidding cities makes great reading. Here’s the sole entry in the report on the issue of human rights:

As stated, the Commission has a defined technical evaluation role but it is impossible to ignore the public debate on political issues such as human rights which, in the present context, is imposed on sport. The Commission will not deal with this issue other than to acknowledge the existence of the debate and its continuation. Members of the IOC will have to reach their own conclusions.

Wow, "reach their own conclusions" – we’ll give you a report on whether we think traffic congestion will be a problem, but are there any problems with brutal suppression and political murders? Dunno, make up your own mind – you've got the internet, why don’t you google it? Of course just don’t try and google it in Beijing. It won’t work.

Here’s what the report said about media during the Games:

It was confirmed to the Commission that there will be no restrictions on media reporting and movement of journalists up to and including the Olympic Games.

Here’s how that phrase is being interpreted now:
Our promise was that journalists would be able to use the Internet for their work during the Olympic Games,'' said BOCOG Spokesperson Mr Sun. “So we have given them sufficient access to do that.''

So you can send an email, just don’t try and look up anything about Amnesty, Tibet or even the BBC.

But look we’re all getting in a tiz over this, after all the IOC has Kevin Gosper on the case. He says he plans to discuss it with the Beijing authorities. Bet that'll do it. After all if you wanted someone to defend freedom of access and the media, you would choose the guy who described the Torch relay protestors as people who “just take their hate out on whatever the issues are at the time”.

And here’s what Gosper said on the 7:30 Report back in March on the internet restrictions:

"...when games time comes and there's 25,000 members of media, as you say, I would expect the Internet to be free and I would expect that all journalists and radio operators and broadcasters will be free to operate as they would have been in Sydney."

I’m guessing they’re going to struggle to meet that marker.

But then it’s par for the course for the IOC, here’s how the report described the Chine’s political system:

The Beijing Municipal Government provides state administration at local level. The political system is classed as “working for China”.

Now there’s a phrase to warm your heart.

Here’s some more gold from the report:

Beijing currently faces a number of environmental pressures and issues, particularly air pollution. However, it has an ambitious set of plans and actions designed and comprehensive enough to greatly improve overall environmental conditions.

Hmm, wonder how they’re making out?

And the conclusion of the committee?

It is the Commission’s belief that a Beijing Games would leave a unique legacy to China and to sport and the Commission is confident that Beijing could organise an excellent Games.

To be fair they also gave an excellent recommendation to Paris and Toronto (Istanbul and Osaka less so). But despite a strong belief Paris and Toronto were better bids, Samaranch held sway and Beijing won.

Toronto came second in the voting; I’m betting there’s a few in the IOC wishing they could have a re-count.

I love the Olympics and will watch them avidly; but really, London 2012 can’t come soon enough.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Newspoll: ALP 57 - LNP 43

It’s not often a poll has an instantaneous effect; today’s Newspoll did.

All last week and up till yesterday, Brendan Nelson, Julie Bishop, Nick Minchin, Tony Abbott et al were circling the wagons trying to get the Libs to take a hardline against the Emission Trading System.

The line was that while they believed in climate change (though they did note there was growing scepticism) they were going to wait till China, India and the US did something before they would agree to “cripple the economy” and introduce a carbon trading scheme. This is akin to arguing you are in favour of gay marriage, and fully support homosexual relationships, but you just want to wait till the Vatican approves before legislating to make them legal.

This morning the Libs woke to see this in The Australian:

  • Australia should introduce a carbon emissions trading scheme only if other countries also introduce such schemes: 23%
  • Australia should introduce one regardless of what other countries do: 60%
  • Total Australia should introduce a carbon emissions trading scheme: 83%
  • Australia shouldn't introduce a carbon emissions trading scheme at all: 11%
  • Uncommitted: 6%

Hmm maybe we need a rethink!

And not just that, after trying with all their might to sell the line that Rudd and his ETS will kill jobs, ruin lives and send our economy offshore, the ALP’s primary vote went up 4%. In cricketing terms, the ALP would want Nelson to be bowling from both ends.

But worse than that, Nelson now could see on the very day he was hoping to convince the shadow cabinet to take the hard line that 60% were against his policy – and 47% of his own supporters were also against it. Those numbers don’t win many debates in a Cabinet room.

The funniest thing today though, was Denis Shanahan in The Australian trying to put a totally unbiased spin on this (ie his usual Lib friendly prose):

Nelson has decided to fight Kevin Rudd, Ross Garnaut, Nicholas Stern, a dedicated core of his own Coalition colleagues and, most importantly, the vast majority of Australian voters.

...However, the 34 per cent who believe there should be no ETS, or at least not until other countries act, is a significant base for Nelson to work from.

Shanahan gets this mythical 34% by adding the 23% who want him to wait, and the 11% who never want any form of ETS. It would be just as logical to say Kevin Rudd has a base of 83% to work from. I know which one I would prefer.

Obviously the Liberal Party didn’t buy either Nelson’s line, or Shanahan’s opinion, and thus they rolled Nelson, and reverted to the let’s bring it in by 2012 policy.

It’s a big win for Turnbull, and in other circumstances would have been accompanied with a leadership spill and a new leader. But I’m guessing the Libs also took note of the other question posed in today’s Newspoll – the one which showed only 24% think Turnbull should lead the party (only 7% more than “uncommitted”).

For this week the leadership issue is unresolved, but as Shanahan wrote at the end of his column today:
He's [Nelson’s] convinced he's made the right judgment on an ETS, so convinced he's put everything on it to win.

He lost, and his leadership is now terminal.

Climate of Mass Destruction

One of the oft-made statements from climate change deniers is that the evidence is still shaky on whether climate change is the result of “anthropological” factors (i.e people).

Now these deniers are not exactly your balanced fence sitters; they have for the most part taken a similar, right-wing side on other issues – namely the Iraq War.

So I say, ok, let that be the barometer. So long as evidence of climate change is as good or better as that which suggested Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, then let’s agree to stop the arguing and go forth with an Emissions Trading Scheme.

After all the Iraq war has cost Australia $3billion, and has cost the United States close to $3 trillion, and has helped caused an economic slowdown in America so it can’t be any worse than what the doomsayers predict will happen if we introduce an ETS.

So let’s look and compare:
IRAQ evidence of WMD:
Based on CIA intelligence from an Iraqi defector, known to be unreliable and also an alcoholic (ok maybe there is no correlation between alcoholics and lying but still). Also no one in the CIA had actually spoken to this defector, and the statement this guy (known as “Curve Ball”) made to a US Defence personnel about Iraq having mobile production facilities used to make biological agents was made apparently while suffering from a hang-over.

It gets better.

This was revealed last year: On Sept. 18, 2002, CIA director George Tenet briefed President Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, according to two former senior CIA officers.

Let’s just say that again in clear language – the guy who was in charge (not some flunky, not a disgruntled mid-level bureaucrat, but the BOSS) of the organisation employed by the US Government to gather intelligence on foreign nations told the US President that there were no WMDs in Iraq. Ponder that. Ponder it long and hard.

Evidence of Global Warming:
Based on (among many, many others over the past 20-30 years) the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report. The IPCC works under the banner of the UN and the World Meteorological Organisation. The Report consists of a peer review done by around 2,500 scientists and is done in such a way as to intentionally include authors who represent the full range of expert opinion.

Also the Report, rather than taking a scare tactic, actually considers four different “families” of scenarios, and six different modelling approaches to come up with 40 different scenarios in total.

Also there’s NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which has come up with this:

CIA evidence, based on a hung-over Iraqi defector whom even the CIA Director didn’t believe.
The UN and NASA in transparent, fully detailed and open to criticism reports and studies (I’m not even going to go into the hundreds/thousands of other studies).

Even if you don’t believe in Global Warming, I think you would be hard pressed to suggest we invaded Iraq on harder evidence.

Even if you think the IPCC is flawed and contains some errors, I can’t see how you would think it’s less strong than what Colin Powell presented to the UN on WMD.

Even if you think NASA is corrupt and biased, you would still have to think its evidence is stronger than the CIA Director telling Bush there were no WMD!

And even if you don’t, I doubt you’ll argue that bringing in an ETS will result in the deaths of 4,438 coalition soldiers and 30,320 wounded, and the deaths of around 42,800 Iraqi civilians.

But then maybe the loss of human life needs less justification than does something which will raise the price of petrol by a measly 2.5 to 5 cents a litre.

Flick of the Week: "Great daddy-o"

For this week’s flick we take two links from last week's North by Northwest – Ernest Lehmann was the screenwriter of both, and Ned Glass who played the suspicious ticket seller in Northwest, here plays the role of Doc, the kindly owner of Doc’s Drug Store. The film? West Side Story.

I’m a bit of a softy for musicals. The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, geez even Oliver! are good watching for me. But I think West Side Story is the best of those musicals adapted from the stage (Singin’ in the Rain in my opinion I think the best all-time musical).

The score is fabulous the influence of jazz makes for a truly urban 50s feeling. The story based on Romeo and Juliet is excellent. There’s little wonder it picked up 10 Oscars.

No Oscar for Lehmann though (of course not, all he did was write the damn thing). Anyone who has seen the stage version will know there are huge differences, and the film version is much improved for them.

For example, the classic song America in the stage version is sung by the Puerto Rican women, here the men led by Bernado get involved; the social criticism is heightened and his matching barbs with his girlfriend Anita are biting and witty. Also the song Officer Krupke is moved earlier in the film at a point less redolent with the tragedy that follows – and it is much better for the move given the joy of the song.

Now a musical, let alone one set in the Bronx about rival street gangs (the Jets and the Sharks) can be hard for some to stomach (and as the title of this thread shows, the language can also be a bit dated). But there is brilliance here, if you can let yourself accept the world in which it’s set – a world where gangs dance ballet and break into song while writing graffiti and fighting.

The songs by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim are fantastic. As Anger Management so nicely showed it’s almost impossible to hear “I Feel Pretty” without breaking into a smile; it’s so undeniably cheesy that it demands a big dopey grin - check out this Nike ad featuring Maria Sharapova as proof.

The only draw back are the two leads – Natalie Wood ain’t Puerto Rican and can’t sing (and the dubbing of her voice with that of Marni Nixon isn’t subtle), and Richard Beymer... well let’s just say he tried hard and leave it at that.

And yet despite this – something which would cripple any other film – West Side Story is top drawer stuff. Funny, touching, bitter, and heartbreaking. As Milhous van Houten so poignantly would put it: “it started out like Romeo and Juliet but instead it ended up in tragedy”; and yes a tragedy this is. The final scene is a triumph of acting by Wood.

It is also a great film of its time, reflecting like did Blackboard Jungle, and Rebel Without a Cause the angst of the first generation of teenagers (those damn baby boomers!). As one of the Jets says to Doc in response to his saying “When I was your age...”: “When ‘you’ was my age? When my old man was my age, when my brother was my age... You was never my age, none of ya!

You dig it?

Best line:
Bernardo: [singing] Everywhere grime in America / Organised crime in America / Terrible time in America
Anita: You forget I'm in America

Monday, July 28, 2008

Maybe the first shall be last?

According to Brendan Nelson, Australia should not rush into an Emission Trading System before the rest of the world does. Which is just as well, because it seems like the rest of the world is already doing it.

Last week the Western Climate Initiativerevealed a framework yesterday for a broad cap-and-trade program to reduce polluting greenhouse-gas emissions”. Now I have to admit the Western Climate Initiative sounds like the cookiest bunch of tree-hugging, let’s sit around the campfire in our hemp pants and sing a few versus of Kumbaya, greenies going. Obviously it must be a group consisting of people with names like Waterfall and Deer Blossom who have decided to band together and form a collective or something.

Actually no.

The WCI consists of the US states Arizona, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and the Canadian provinces, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. Not exactly small time then.

California is of course the 8th biggest economy in the world; and those seven US states combined would be the 6th biggest economy (or about 20% of the US Economy, and a mere 202% bigger than Australia’s). And just in case you think they have gone rogue, fourteen more U.S. and Mexican states and Canadian provinces are officially tracking the process.

So it’s all a bit odd when you read that Nelson thinks: "Our priority in deciding our policy is to act in Australia's best interest and for Australia not to get too far out in front of the 'big guys' of greenhouse gas emissions, such as India and China”.

So I guess while the biggest economy in the US thinks it’s time to act, the Liberals think Rudd doing the same thing in Australia will cripple our economy. Apparently our economy is now determined by the decisions of those in Beijing and New Delhi.

I don’t know about you, but if in the past we had waited for China and India to do something before we did anything I’d hazard a guess and say our quality of life would not be quite so luxurious.

Though I guess now things have changed, after all Miranda Devine thinks the ETS will “wreck the economy”. Any evidence of this Miranda? Of course not.

Even more bizarre is when Nelson says: “Australia cannot in itself solve the problem of climate change, but we can destroy jobs and industries in our country and we can do enormous damage to our own environment if we act in isolation from the rest of the world." (by the way I’m pretty sure he meant to say “damage to our economy”, but with Nelson you never know for sure).

So I guess the European Union, Japan, California, Canada, and New Zealand don’t count. Obviously they are all “isolated from the rest of the world”.

Here’s a quote to go out with, it’s from Arnold Schwarzengger (who was elected basically because California’s economy was in the toilet – so not exactly desirous of wrecking the economy):
"Like California, Ontario is leading the way in recognizing that we must take action now to fight global warming and to reduce our dependence on fossil fuel. Instead of waiting for our federal governments to act, our states and provinces are working together to find solutions that both protect the environment and grow our economy. Working with our partners, California can achieve nearly double the reductions in global warming pollution than if we go at the problem alone.”

Geez, I’m now quoting Arnold Schwarzenegger; wonders will never cease. At this rate the Liberals will get some logic to their Climate Change policy, but I think that may be a verse of Kumbaya too many.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tour de France Diary

8:45pm: Cadel Evans starts in about 3 1/2 hours time.

I'll update his progress, and maybe keep a count on the amount of chicken chips I'm going through.

At the moment I'm watching the Crows play Sydney, switching over to watch the Wallabies V All Blacks, and also watching a bit of a replay of the Yankees-Boston Game.

It's a good night!

* * *

9:30pm: Well the Crows have done the job on the Swans (still 5 minutes to go, but I'll write this one down as a win). Tip for posterity (not a real outlandish one, but still) Jason Porplyzia will captain the Crows one day (and hopefully by then I won't have to spend 2 minutes on google trying to work out how to spell his name).

The Wallabies look to be doing well also. (Plus the Yankees won... this is looking like being a very good night; time to break open a big bag of potato chips....mmmm potato chips)
* * *
10:00pm: Cadel getting interviewed. Sounds confident, but very respectful of Sastre. He seems like a good guy (though I have to say, I don't like how he often mentions the others riders have better teams - it's true, but you don't need to always point it out).

Phil Ligggett takes the usual cautious line. You just know the guy has seen it all before, and has probably lost count of the number of times the expected did not happen.

Evans' bodyguard is positive Cadel will win. (Yes hold the front page for that one).
* * *
10:10pm: Liggett and Mike Tomalaris now seem to be saying that Sastre is cherry ripe, and fresh as a daisy (actually they didn't say that, but I'm going into full-on sporting cliche mode).

Taste of France! My favourite; Gabriel Gate cooking up rabbit. Are there any French dishes that don't involve browning the meat, putting in mushroom, garlic, shallots, and stock, and whacking it all in the oven for 1 1/2 hours? I'm just saying, all that talk about French cooking, and all they seem to do is make chicken or rabbit casseroles. Would it kill them to to do a stir fry?
* * *

10:36pm: David Millar is coming second on the road. An interesting rider - got done for doping back in 2004 (EPO). Is now a huge anti-doping campaigner, and is often called on for comments by journos when a rider gets done. He has certainly rehabilitated his reputation. Not sure how. Compare it with the hoo ha over British sprinter Dwain Chambers. On this topic, if you have time, check the letter written by Victor Conte (head doping guy for the BALCO scandal) to Dwain Chambers. It details how athletes beat the doping tests. It is amazing reading.

Fabian Cancellara looks to be the one to beat for the stage. Evans still and hour and a half away.
* * *

10:45pm: Just flicked over to Channel 9; I Am Sam is on. Never seen it; personally any movie with actors playing mentally disabled people are complete crocks. There should be a sub-rule in the Oscars that such roles are ineligible for winning an Academy Award. If there was, I would bet my house you'd never see another actor playing the role.
* * *

10:47pm: They've crossed to Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. Sherwen states the "statistics favour Evans, BUT Sastre is in yellow..." Wish they'd just stop saying the "but". I know the "but", stop saying "but"!!! Positive thoughts, positive thoughts.

Sherwen just said that Evans needs to pull back on average 1.77 seconds a km. Sounds a bit of a doddle, not sure why I'm bothering to stay up.
* * *

10:50pm: Just had a squiz on imdb (to get the I Am Sam link), The Dark Knight is now the number 1 rated film. I haven't seen it yet, but I can't imagine it actually being better than The Godfather (or that favourite of all footy players, Shawshank).

Such polls always favour recent films. Back in the mid-late 90s you couldn't have a movie mag polls of the greatest film with tripping over Pulp Fiction as Number 1. Now it'd probably be in the top 10, but I can't see time improving anyone's view of it.

Cancellara just set the best time. Good that Evans has the world time trial champion's time to aim for.

11:06pm: Sherwen just reports that 14 out of the 19 team managers think Cadel will win the tour (only CSC and the Spanish teams think Sastre will win). I preferred it when he was saying "but". Stop trying to jinx him!!!!

11:11pm: Had another quick look at I am Sam. Can you believe Michelle Pfeiffer is 50? How can that be? And did you know that since 2000 she has only been in 7 films? Bet you can't name 3. Just an amazing fall from her previous heights.

By comparison, in the first 8 years of the '90s she was in 12 films AND played Mindy Simmons in one of the greatest Simpsons' episodes.

And now I see she is going to be in a film with Ashton Kutcher. Sad. Very sad.

11:57pm: Erik Zabel just finished - he's 38 and on his 14th tour. Way to make me feel like I've done nothing with my life Erik.

12:00am: 10 riders left to go. 17 minutes till Evans. Mike Tomalaris asks yet a-fricken-gain if we are about to witness a slice of sporting history.

12:03am: We got foxtel about 4 months ago, and I have to say we'll never go back to being without it. How else could I see Flags of Our Fathers on 2 channels at the same time? Seriously are they thinking there are people around who switched on the "Movie One" channel at 11:30pm and thought, "damn I've missed the start of Flags of Our Fathers... oh whew, it starts on "Movie Two" in 30 minutes, I'll stay up then (rather than just go to my DVD collection and get it from there)?

12:07am: The Pelican Brief has just started on Channel 9 - Cynthia Nixon is in it apparently, and John Lithgow? This seems like something I normally would know; it also seems like something I normally wouldn't give a damn about. I think my mind is starting to wander a bit.

What happened to all the late night infomercials? Back in the late 90s I could stay up past midnight and know that I would be able to learn all about the latest advances in the science of microwave cooking (hello Brown'n'Crisp) from a short guy pretending to be a chef purely because he wore a floppy chef hat. The amazing thing about all the cooking infomercials (whether for microwave stuff, knives, a portable BBQ, stomach crunching equipment) is they always ended with an upside down pineapple cake. Who the hell has ever eaten one? Enqiring minds need to know.

Evans is up next!!!!

12:17am: Go Cadel Go!!!!

12:22am: Liggett makes mention that is 80 years since Hubert Opperman became the first Australian to ride the tour. 80 years? Not really a magical number, but what the heck, I'll take any omen today so long as it's good.

12:24am: Sastre starts...his form looks a bit poor (because of course I know what the hell the difference between good form and bad form on a bike is - has something to do with not falling off??)

12:28am: Just read on that Obama denies his tour of Europe was a victory lap. No Obama it was a subtle incognito fact finding mission, where 200,000 of your close persoanl friends just happened to be passing by when you gave a speech in Berlin.

12:32am: A dopey French TV stat suggests Evans is not doing that well. Liggett and Sherwen dismiss it. Good work guys, keep the faith!!

12:37am: Menchov went through 3rd fastest at the firs time check - Phil and Paul talk about him vaulting over Evans!!! Then they mention that everyone says this is a course for Evans. Stop giving me mixed messages!!! First check coming up for Evans.

12:39am: Evans goes through 6th fastest. 16 seconds down on Menchov. He needs to pick it up. Menchov is going mad!!! The dopey French TV stat was right!!!!

12:44am: OK, I'm officially worried.

12:48am: Sastre is doing ok. Bugger. Wonder how The Pelican Brief is going...

12:54am: According to Liggett, Cadel Evans in danger. Hey there's a Columbo episode on TV1, that might be worth a watch! (Sport is stupid, why do I do this to myself?)

12:57am: Menchov isn't doing as well - maybe he went out too fast (yes he did, yes he did, say it enough it'll come true, yes he did, you you do have the power to affect the outcome of the race). I need a drink. Or two.

1:00am: Evans is 7th through the second check. Bugg. Er.

1:05am: It must be the most impossible feeling to cope with - the feeling that your hopes of winning the Tour are slipping away with each km. Evans would be getting reports through his earpiece, and must be wondering what the hell is going on, and knowing that probably the harder he tries the worse it will get.

1:09am: At the 36km Sastre is only 23 secs down on Evans. Not good. If he has been holding back to go hard over the last part of the course, now is the time to start going for it...

1:14am: Sherwen says Cadel's team manager might be starting to panic. Starting?? Ya think??

1:16am: Apparently Sherwen reckons no one factored into the "yellow jersey factor". No, they just mentioned it every other bloody minute. Never considered it though.

1:19am: Menchov finishes - seems to have slowed over the last few kms. Liggett calls it for Sastre. Unfortunately he's going to be right.

1:21am: Evans finishes with the 7th best time. Just not his day. It's a long tour, and you get the feeling he has had to work harder than Sastre (yes, I'll mention it - you need a good team around you)
Well this is just a bugger.

Liggett just compared Sastre to Armstrong. Geez Phil, let's reach for the hyperbole jar and smash it open.

1:31am: That's it, Sastre wins. Goodnight. See you next year, if I can be bothered. Stupid sport.

11:01am: Just watched Offsiders - Evans' interview was pretty grascious (though he did point out again the strength of CSC - and yes he has a point, it's a wierd sport: all about the individual, but impossible to win without a good team). Ah geez. Oh well at least I can get back to going to bed early and finishing the novel I'm currently reading - only 2 weeks till the Olympics; I better read fast.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ich bin ein Dummkopf

Can someone explain to me what the hell Barack Obama is doing addressing a crowd in Berlin?

Was there an election that I didn't hear about - I swear I was paying attention to US politics, I thought I would've heard he won.

And I was also sure the Cold War finished back in 1989 - I remember writing a first year politics essay about it.

I have to say, this smacks as possibly the dumbest thing I've seen in a long while.

I understand he wants the whole JFK connection. But there are two important differences: when JFK went to Berlin and said "Ich bin ein Beliner" he was President of the United States, and he said it in West Berlin just after the Berlin Wall had been built.

In other words, the event meant something. His speech meant something.

This is just shite wrapped up in hubris, disguised as a "moment".

Sure his speech was good- nice words - but why in hell is he saying them in Berlin? If he wants to recreate JFK, here's a tip - first get fricken elected as President, then go where the US is involved in a war and make a speech to the people there that says the US will stick with them. That's right go to Bahgdad. Go to Kabul.

Giving a speech like this in Berlin when he's not even President is a crap, postmodern attempt at making history that just gives swinging voters in the US another reason not to vote for him.

It recalls how Gorbechev was wildly popular in Germany, and despised in the USSR.

Barack should get back to the US and look like he gives a damn about people, and actually thinks he needs their vote - this makes it seems like he thinks the whole democratic election process is just a dot the i and cross the t thing.

I remain to be persuaded that he is "the guy".

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Attack of the Killer Liberals

The Liberal Party has turned into a bad disaster movie.

The key to a bad disaster movie is that at some point early in the film the main character needs to be confronted with evidence of impending doom – be it volcano/hurricane/plague/plane crash/tornado/cruise ship capsize/iceberg/Celine Dion song. Upon seeing this evidence the following exchange takes place:

ALL KNOWING STAR: I don’t like it; it looks to me like this place is going to blow, just like it did 10 years ago in South America in the scene shown before the credits when I witnessed an explosion and plague but wasn’t able to stop it.
HIS BOSS: Don’t be stupid. All conventional science and knowledge tells us that everything is going to be alright.
AKS: Yes, conventional science. I think we’ve been looking at this all back to front; don’t you see this confirms everything I have been arguing these last 10 years.
BOSS: Listen! I don’t want to hear any more of your so called theories, that kind of talk is what got you fired in the first place – and if word gets out that you’re sprouting them again, the Government will cut all of the institute’s funding.
AKS: Funding be damned! We’re talking about people’s lives. And not just people, but my life, your life, my-ex-wife’s life, and that little kid little Jimmy who has a lisp and a bowl-haircut’s life, and little Jimmy’s sexy-single-Mom’s life.
BOSS: Are you crazy! I command you to keep quiet. If you say anything at that town meeting we’ve been invited to by little Jimmy’s mom who is also the town mayor, I will consider that your resignation!
AKS: I won’t keep quiet! Crazy you say? Maybe I’m so crazy that I’m really sane. Maybe I’m the only one who’s sane here. Maybe I’m just crazy enough to see that it’s all of you who are crazy and that because you’re all crazy you think the sane man is crazy and...err... ooh look it’s Jimmy’s mom, and she has coffee.

And of course the volcano blows, the plague comes, the plane crashes, Celine Dion sings, and that damn “conventional wisdom” is once again shown to be wrong.

Which leads me to Julie Bishop.

This is her writing on her blog in The Age this week:

Freedom of expression is one of the principles that underpin the health of liberal democracies the world over. It is also normal and indeed essential for scientific research to be subjected to scrutiny and to be challenged.
That is why there is cause for concern about aspects of the current debate about climate change....
In recent weeks, I have received numerous messages from experienced scientists, including earth and climate specialists, who have argued against the conclusions of the Garnaut report.
I have urged some to make their concerns public, but they are apprehensive lest they be labelled a 'sceptic' or even worse 'a denier', and subject to personal abuse for having the temerity to question conventional wisdom on climate change.

There you have it. Bishop has decided the Liberal Party needs to be the All Knowing Star who stands up to the inflexible “conventional wisdom on climate change” and allow the questioners who are being silenced by the establishment (evil bastards) the freedom to state their views. Brave Julie Bishop. Bless you.

I hope she doesn’t stop there. I want her to start bringing into Liberal policy such conventional wisdom challenging science as that which suggests the links between smoking and cancer are overstated, or that which believes immunisation of children is unnecessary and even dangerous, and of course the science that knows as a fact that daylight saving is ruining the carpets and stuffing up the chooks.

And don’t give me the “oh she is just calling for a balanced opinion”. As Jeannie Bueller so succinctly put it, dry that one out and you can fertilise the lawn. A politician does not urge anyone to make a view public unless they agree with it. If she didn’t agree with it why is she writing this article? Because of her belief in the purity of democracy? Please.

Now to continue the disaster theme, it’s not that unusual for a political party to turn into a train wreck after an election loss, but it’s rare for them to advertise the fact and give the time and date it will occur. The Libs have decided to do so.

It started with rumours of Peter Costello’s resurrection and then Andrew Bolt’s assertions on Insiders last Sunday and in his column this week that “Brendan Nelson will next week put his leadership on the line by tackling rival Malcolm Turnbull over global warming”.

You see next week the Libs are coming back to Canberra for a two day party summit at which the response to the ETS will be agenda item Number 1. Agenda item Number 2 will be to repair to the Canberra Hospital for knife removal from everyone’s backs. To whit:

While Liberal frontbenchers Malcolm Turnbull and Greg Hunt are preparing a submission on the Coalition's response, the MPs have broken their silence to urge Dr Nelson to dump the Coalition's election policy of supporting a scheme in 2012, regardless of action by other emitters.
And also:
Liberal MPs have said they will push their colleagues to adopt a harder line against Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's emissions trading scheme at next week's Coalition talkfest. The potential brawl could force the Coalition to block the Government's preferred model and ensure climate change features prominently at the next election.

But it could also pit Brendan Nelson against leadership rival Malcolm Turnbull, forcing Liberal MPs to decide whether to retain the status quo, or switch leaders.

West Australian MP Dennis Jensen is among those heading the push against emissions trading. But he is expected to have strong backing from other carbon trade sceptics, including Senator Mitch Fifield, South Australian Cory Bernardi and party powerbroker Nick Minchin.
Guess we’ve narrowed down the list of who is Bolt’s confidant)

All the while Kevin Rudd and the ALP must be wondering what they did to deserve such luck.

There they were thinking this whole Emissions Trading Scheme thingy might be a tough sell, and could bite them in the bum come the next election. But if the Libs follow the Bolt line of trying to argue that human impact on Climate Change is all a bit of a myth that has been blown out of proportion by... err... the left wing radical elements of the... err... establishment (you know Al Gore, NASA, CSIRO), then the ALP can start thinking about what champagne to order for the election party come 2010.

Here’s the situation in a recent poll done by The Australian (hardly a paper that likes to bolster the ALP’s chances):
58 per cent of Coalition voters believe Australia should take action [on climate change] even if other countries do not.
Only 25 per cent of the 1700 voters polled believed Australia should act only when other major economies agreed to do so.
(i.e the Nelson policy)

Now maybe I’m confused, but tell me when was the last time a party won an election by doing something on a major issue even a majority of its own supporters thinks is wrong, and that only 25% of the whole population thinks is right?

And let me tell you this will be the issue of the next election. Interest rates seem to be on hold, and inflation is forecast to fall slowly over the next two years.

And it is the issue because Malcolm Turnbull will not be able to take the hard Bolt line – he will lose his seat – remember how tough it was for him last time over a pulp mill in Tasmania, imagine him having to tell the Wentworth electorate he supports a wait and see policy regarding the “conventional wisdom”.

And if Turnbull cannot support such a position (and I’d suggest he also does not believe in such a position) then the challenge is on. And if he wins, then you have Minchin and his cadre (throw in Abbott and Bishop) who believe Turnbull is a lefty-tree-hugger, and thus they will destabilise and challenge and hinder. Them's party splitting type machinations.

All in all not a good position to be in.

And while all this is going on, the ALP continues to look forward thinking, consistent, in control. In short looking like a Government.

If the Libs want to have any chance at the next election they have to fight on their strengths. And hoping they can turn climate change into an economic issue can only work if they first convince the public they actually agree there is a climate change problem. Otherwise they are just doing the Climate Change equivalent of Mark Latham signing a big piece of cardboard pledging to keep interest rates low.

But Andrew Bolt keeps whispering in the ears of senior Liberals with such suggestions as this:

But there is one other step Nelson could - and should - take. He is hesitating on how much scepticism he should show about the global warming theory on which Rudd's plans rest.
Many Liberals, like some senior Labor politicians, are sceptical about claims that man is heating the world to hell, but fear that an evangelical media will kick them to pieces if they say so.
But suddenly there are signs of a shift in the debate. More reporters are finally mentioning a once-taboo fact - that the world hasn't actually warmed over the past decade, and over the past couple of years has even cooled.

Yep, conventional scientific wisdom versus the Liberal Party. If they want to run with that line come the election they might as well concede now.

Maybe Kevin Rudd should send Andrew Bolt a gift - I wonder if he likes Celine Dion?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Flick of the Week: "How does a girl like you get to be a girl like you?"

I love movies.

When I was 16 I started doing a list of my favourite 100 films. I used to update the list every couple of months or so, which in retrospect strikes me as a tad weird, given that I saw nothing wrong with my tastes changing over the course of 60 days. To me it was kind of like a Top 100 Album countdown, and so it was natural that some would go up, other would go down.

I am somewhat OCD about lists and stats, so I kept score of which films rose up the list the most over the previous list, which fell the most, the weeks each film had been in the top 10, and also grouped them in genres. This was before imdb and the like, and so I needed my memory and all of that obsessive type of personality to be able debate with myself over whether, say, Superman should be 83rd or whether the previous list’s number 90 was now a bit better and should move up (seriously I was certifiable).

When imdb came along, I was in heaven and jumped into its voting system with a vengeance. I now have voted on 1770 titles in imdb (it’s amazing what procrastination is able to achieve). For the record I have given 41 films a ranking of 1 out of 10, most recently Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull (I just hated that movie with every fibre of my being).

Now to channel my obsessive disorder away from imdb, each week I will write a little blurb on a ‘Flick of the Week’. To choose the following week’s flick I’ll use a Kevin Bacon Game type process and pick a film that someone from the cast or crew of this week’s flick is connected with. Sometimes it’ll be deliberate, other times I’ll just randomly hit on a name on imdb and see where it takes me.

* * *
This week’s flick is North by Northwest, and it is perhaps myall-time favourite movie.

I don’t think it is the best movie ever, but when it comes to give me a big bag of popcorn, comfy couch and an enjoyable two hours in front of the screen, there are not many that will beat this great Hitchcock and Ernest Lehman film.

I give special mention to Lehman because it is as much his film as it is Hitchcock’s. The two of them one day were brainstorming about various stories and scenes when Hitchcock said he wanted to film a chase scene across Mount Rushmore and that he also wanted to do scene in the UN General Assembly where one of the delegates is found to be dead. (You can read more about this on the imdb trivia page, but most of the stuff there comes straight from William Goldman’s great book about Hollywood, Which Lie Did I Tell?). From those meagre bones Lehman wrote the greatest thriller/adventure script ever.

Among all the things I love about this film, the scenes I love the most are those on the train from New York to Chicago. Whenever I watch the film I am filled with a desire to go on an overnight train journey. Of course train journeys for the most part do not involve swapping double entendres with Eva Marie Saint in the dining car.

In fact, the only train trip of any great length I have taken was between Sydney and Albury. It ranks among the longest 8 hours of my life, sitting in the economy carriage; cramped; no legroom; no sleeping carriage; no witty conversation; no being chased by internaitonal spies; no dining carriage; no fun.

But of course in North by Northwest they do have a dining room, where Cary Grant orders a Gibson and Eva Maire Saint recommends the brook trout “a little trouty, but still good” and then breathlessly explains that she never discusses love on an empty stomach (originally, never "makes love"). Now I’ve never even had a Gibson; and I doubt that I'll ever be classy enough to order it, nevertheless when I watch Grant and Marie Saint I can imagine that I will be.

The film is the personification of “it’s not the destination that’s important, but the journey”. Grant is advertising executive Roger O Thornhill, who is mistaken as a spy by the bad guys, and Eva Marie Saint is Eve Kendall, a woman with a past, and maybe more than a few secrets. But really all that is just plot. Forget about it, and enjoy the ride.

It’s a spy thriller, where you don’t care so much about the spying.

It’s an action film, where by today’s standards there is very little action – but you don’t care.

It’s a love story where by today’s standards there is very little ‘love’ – and yes the film is better for it.

It is the ultimate, they don’t make ‘em like this anymore movie.

It’s James Mason as a bad guy; it’s Eva Marie Saint as the love interest; it’s Cary Grant as Cary Grant; it’s Hitchcock. C’mon, what more do you need?!

Best lines (geez this is tough, but apart from the title above, I’ll go with):

Roger Thornhill: The moment I meet an attractive woman, I have to start pretending I have no desire to make love to her.
Eve Kendall: What makes you think you have to conceal it?
Roger Thornhill: She might find the idea objectionable.
Eve Kendall: Then again, she might not.

Nope, I'll never be able to pull that off.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Costello is good, but he’s no George Clooney

Perhaps Peter Costello has been reading some Homer.

At the beginning of The Iliad, nine years into the war between the Greeks and Trojans, we find the great warrior Achilles is sulking in his tent, refusing to fight because Agamemnon, the leader of the Greeks, has taken Achilles’ prize slave (the beautiful Briseis). Achilles sits in his tent moaning about his honour having been trampled, but all who read it can see he is just having perhaps the biggest sulk in history – indeed he even prays for his side to lose just so they will realise how badly they need him. In the end, after the Greeks have suffered some major defeats, he returns to the fight and defeats the great Trojan prince Hector.

Now I’m not sure if Costello sees himself as Achilles, but it’s obvious some in the Liberal Party do. For the last few days the scuttlebutt has been running hard that Liberal Party insiders are looking to remove Brendan Nelson and install Costello as leader. The issue got a run on last Sunday’s Insiders, and came on the back of a story in The Australian regarding a book, Inside Kevin 07, which showed polling suggesting that Costello would have been a more difficult opponent at the last election for Rudd than was Howard.

To those who think this is a great revelation, I say welcome to Australian politics, good to have you on board.

Of course Costello would have been a better leader for the Libs at the last election. Howard was old and out of ideas. This news is no news: Alexander Downer, Nick Minchin, and Joe Hockey let it be known on 4 Corners in February that they thought Howard had stayed on too long. And when even Downer, Minchin and Hockey know something, you know it is pretty damn obvious. Geez even Andrew Bolt knew it!

But Costello never challenged Howard; instead he sulked at not being given the leadership. His sulk continued after the election when to the shock of everyone he decided not to take over the leadership.

To recall how taken by surprise the Libs were by this, here is Downer on Insiders about 2 hours before Costello held his press conference announcing he wouldn’t be standing:

Look, I've not spoken to too many people since last night. I've spoken to about two people. So I hope, as a former leader myself, let me say I hope that the party will just get behind Peter Costello and elect him unopposed.

I think that's the right decision for the Liberal Party. Peter Costello has enormous talent and remember he does have a great deal more experience, almost infinitely more experience than Kevin Rudd, and it will be a tough job for Mr Rudd to confront somebody who is as experienced as articulate, and as formidable as Peter Costello.

I think Mr Rudd will find, of course he will have a honeymoon for a while, but I think he'll find dealing with Mr Costello very heavy going as time goes on. ...

Nobody in the party, well, I suppose at least in theory with the exception of me, but I'm not running for leader, but no one in the party has the experience of Peter Costello and I think there shouldn't be a contest to the leadership. It should just go straight to Peter Costello.

But instead of taking the leadership, Costello sulked, and it is not hard to imagine he was praying the party would keep losing so they would realise how badly they needed him.

But they needed him then. On 24 November 2007, the Liberal Party’s stocks were at their lowest in history; they turned to Costello to lead them out of the wilderness, and he responded with the big finger.

This was the second time he had turned down the leadership. Most people forget he could have had it after John Hewson, but he knocked it back and let Downer have it.

Just think on that fact. Name me one great leader in history who when presented with a chance to lead has said oooh errr... ummm look how about you let this complete dill do it instead... he’ll be better than me.

To be a leader you really only need to have one prerequisite (great leaders need a few more) and that is you have to have an amazing sense of self belief that you are the best person for the job; in fact not just the best, but the only one for the job. Say what you like about them, but do you think Keating, Hawke, Howard, Fraser, Whitlam or Menzies ever thought anyone else could do it better than he could?

Keating of course had Costello’s number early on, as this youtube clip so wonderfully shows.

If he didn’t want the leadership when he was young and brash in 1994, why would he want it now? And if he didn’t want it in 94, and didn’t want it in November, why should anyone in the Liberal Party want to give it to him now?

The fuel for this is the belief that Costello will be able to beat Kevin Rudd. To those of that belief I remind them that in the latest movie version of the Iliad, Troy, Achilles is played by Brad Pitt. And sad to say, Costello is more Pitt than Achilles.

Now Brad Pitt is a huge movie star. He is on every magazine cover, he is in the gossip sections, and he sells magazines by the truckload. He must be the hottest movie star on the planet- his name must be box office gold! Actually, no. Let’s have a look at the US Box Office of Pitt’s last 15 films (and bear in mind $100m is the minum requirement for success in the US):

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Ocean's Thirteen
Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Ocean's Twelve
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas(Voice)
Ocean's Eleven
Spy Game
The Mexican
Fight Club
Meet Joe Black
Seven Years in Tibet
The Devil's Own

As you can see, Pitt needs a good cast around him to crack the $100m mark. Oceans 11, 12 and 13 are as star studded as it gets, and Mr and Mrs Smith coincided with the biggest break-up and affair in history. I’ll give him Troy, he certainly carried that, but it’s hardly Pirates of the Caribbean (by comparison that took in $305 million).

Now I’ll grant you a lot of Pitt’s other films are vanity projects – the Jesse James flick was never going to beat Titanic in popularity – but compare it to the $53.9 m that Russell Crowe’s 3:10 to Yuma made in the US and you see he ain’t that big a draw card.

Disagree? Seriously when was the last time you ever said - hey Brad Pitt’s new movie is coming out, I’ve got to see that? No one has ever referred to any of the Ocean’s movies as Brad Pitt’s – they’re George Clooney’s, and even Clooney does better than Pitt in his other films – Leatherheads, $31.2m; Michael Clayton, $49m; heck even Syrianna made $50m, and 98% of those who saw it still don’t know what it was about (the other 2% are lying just to sound intelligent).

The point is Pitt sells magazines, but not movies. Costello may sound good in focus groups and do ok in the odd poll, but he won’t win an election. He looks good as second banana, but like Pitt needs Clooney; Costello needs Howard (and yes, I realise I have now compared John Howard to George Clooney, don’t worry I’m not about to compare Julie Bishop to Angelina Jolie).

In fact I’m betting the ALP are wishing and hoping, thinking and praying that the Libs will go for Costello. Why? Because they’ve already got the attack plan ready – it’s sitting on the shelf all good to go. We saw a sneak peak of the plan on 24 November on the same Insiders that Downer revealed he and Costello aren’t exactly close confidants. Penny Wong was interviewed and this is how she described the victory:

And I think what this is not only a response to the positive things Labor and Kevin were putting forward, but also, frankly, a rejection of Peter Costello as the future Prime Minister. Australians went to the ballot box yesterday knowing very clearly that their choice was for Peter Costello to become Prime Minister, and they made their views on that very clear.

... and I think Australians know this is the man who said there was no housing affordability crisis, and this is the man who was the driving force behind the Government's extreme industrial relations agenda, people know what Mr Costello's views on these issues are.

The arguments for the ALP are easy if Costello is the opponent. Take the one issue that the Libs have had any traction on – petrol. Well Costello is against the rebate reduction, so that’s gone.

How about climate change and the ETS (or whatever the acronym is now)? Well Costello can’t attack the ALP for rushing, because they’ll counter by saying they would not have had to “rush” if he hadn’t been on a cabinet that knocked back an ETS in 2000 and 2003. He can’t support it but say that he would do it better, because they will counter by saying he had his chance to do it better but he had been on a cabinet that knocked back an ETS in 20o0 and 2003 (noticing a pattern?).

Back in 2006, Costello would have been new and vitalising to the electorate. Now he is old and has all the baggage the Howard had in Nov 07.

And best of all for Labor, if Costello does take over the leadership, the leadership of the Liberal party will continue to be an issue. Why? Because Malcolm Turnbull has never thought anyone was better at any job than he could be.

So what will happen? My bet is Costello won’t take the leadership – Jack the Insider’s blog points out some good reasons why – and he’ll merely use this media focus to help sell his book. And then he’ll quietly slink off into the land of forgotten dreams, ever knowing he’ll die wondering.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Sun Never Rises

Apparently last night Greg Norman lost the British Open. Yep, he lost again. Or was it that he failed again. Or perhaps he choked. Take your pick - Mark Beretta on Sunrise this morning did.

One of the problems with wanting to know the news each morning before work is that if you want to see it on TV you need to choose between Sunrise and The Today Show. There's a lot to dislike about both, and only a little to like.

Watching Karl Stefanovic on Today each morning trying to be just that little bit more obnoxious than he was the day before is always worth a minute or two just to see if he succeeds (invariably he does); and over on Sunrise there's always some burning issue for them to get people to email them about (what do you think of celebrity baby names? do you leave note when you dent someone's car in the car park? the Middle East problem - give us your solution).

One good thing about them both being on at the same time is that they are very easy to compare - a quick flick to the other channel generally sees the other program doing a story on exactly the same issue. One would almost think there was a cynical formula involved... This morning the choice of sport discussion was between Ken Sutcliffe on Today, and Sunrise "family member" Mark Beretta.

Now Sutcliffe could bore for Australia and he knows it, so to cover himself he makes sure he knows what he's talking about. Thus, he quite succinctly told the story of the British Open from the view point of someone who had actually watched the event.

The story is, sad to say, Padraig Harrington played great and Norman just couldn't stay with him. Too good, no choke, just that it's always going to be tough to beat a top line pro when you only play once in every while. Well done Norman; finishing third is amazing, and a sight better than Mickelson, Scott, Ogilvy, Singh et al etc.

Over on Sunrise, let's cross to Berrets for the sport, and Mark what happened to Greg Norman?? Well Nat, that's the 9 million dollar question [my memory might be a bit off, but I swear he said 9 million] as Greg Norman once again failed to win a major after going into the final round as the leader. Fail, choke, lost (not actually sure if he got around to mentioning who won - I know it didn't get a run on the scroll across the bottom of the screen) etc et al.

Now this was no surprise, as my decision on which program to watch is always made easy at around 6:50 when on Sunrise Berretta and Jim Wilson discuss the day's sporting issues. Both spend the next five minutes desperately trying to come across as the least knowledgeable about sport, and the most strident against whatever issue they can think of on the spot (there seems to be no evidence of preparation). The standard line, particularly from Wilson, is "Kochie, we have to stamp out this type of behaviour..."

As soon as I see those two appear I flick quickly to Today (or usually go and iron my shirt as I think Today at that point is crossing to some "insider" in LA for a Hollywood update that I could have given them two days ago when I read it on perezhilton).

Apart from Sunrise, most of the news reports on the British Open were balanced. Most mentioned the Norman history, but also acknowledged a 53 part time businessman coming third in the open was pretty amazing. The best article unsurprisingly was from an American organisation: Gene Wojciechowski focused on the fact the story may seem the same, but it isn't - Norman is different, sure he wanted to win (and let's be honest 95% of those watching did too) but now he knows it's just a game of golf.

So bad luck Greg I says, and also sorry, because have to admit I let the side down. I was able to stay up until the 13th hole whereupon my brain shut down and I needed sleep. At that point Norman was tied for the lead. His score after then was: Bogie, Par, Birdie, Par, Par, Bogie - so he shot 1 over when the heat was really on (yep big choke that). Unfortunately for Norman my going to sleep coincided with Harrington going on an absolute tear: Birdie, Par, Birdie, Par, Eagle, Par - 4 under (just great golf).

So if anyone choked it was me, after watching Simon Gerrans win the stage in the tour de France, channel surfing onto foxtel to watch Patrick Swayze kick ass in Road House (it's amazing how intelligent a script that contains the line "Pain don't hurt" can seem at 1:30am) and also enduring the replay of the Crows losing against Port, I gave up.

Six holes more and who knows, we might have got there. But nope, I flew the white flag and squibbed it when it mattered. No doubt Norman over at Royal Birkdale felt my absence, and lost all spark; Harrington also sensing this began to play with renewed confidence (or perhaps I'm taking this a bit to personally.... nah!).

Oh well, by coming third, Norman automatically qualifies to play at next year's US Masters. I'm setting my alarm already.