Arrival sees a linguist tasked with making first contact with extraterrestrials.Based on an award-winning short story, the film can only be described as this generation’s Contact or 2001: A Space Odyssey. Same epic feel, familiar dark featureless monoliths (spacecraft). Yet it’s no rip-off.
Truly alien aliens, a tension and uneasy terror that surely would acccompany first contact, a disturbing sense of realism. All achieved without wobbly camcorder shtick.
Just like its illustrious spiritual forebears, Arrival is beautifully understated, deceptively straightforward plot-wise, and handles deep themes without pretension or pomp.
The anti-Independence Day. Found Contact snooze-inducing? Miss it. I say: instant classic.
Arrival, based on Ted Chiang’s 1998 Nebula award-winning novella Story of Your Life, can only be described as this generation’s Contact or 2001: A Space Odyssey. There are even shades of 1998’s Sphere. It’s not derivative of those great works, but has the same epic feel — and by “epic”, I don’t mean bloated and poorly plotted, which is what so often passes for epic nowadays (see Superman v Batman, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, and a 300 page book being turned into a three film, eight hour monstrosity, The Hobbit).
Aliens have landed, but they keep quiet, safely ensconced in their ships. What’s their intention: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, or more War of the Worlds? The film sees linguist Dr Louise Banks, so well-played by Amy Adams that I forgot I was watching a well-known A-lister, tasked with deciphering the alien’s language and making first contact. Her job cannot be underestimated: these aliens are no humans-with-rubber-ears.
Truly alien aliens, a sense of tension and uneasy terror that surely would acccompany first contact, a disturbing sense of realism. And it achieves this without wobbly camcorder shtick. With a nod to 2001 and Sphere, it even has its own monoliths — gigantic, featureless, silent, dark spaceships which float mere feet from the ground.
And just like its illustrious spiritual forebears, Arrival is beautifully understated, deceptively straightforward in its plot, and deals with deep themes with no hint of pretension or pomp. It even raised a few laughs from the audience. Perfectly pitched mind-candy. The only minor criticism is that the film might have benefited from upping the personal and global peril in places.
It really is the anti-Independence Day. If you are one of those people who described Contact as snooze-inducing where nothing happens and “in the end it turns out her dad was an alien” (quote from SouthPark, not actually what happens!), then give Arrival a miss. However for me, as a fully qualified linguist, I hope this is the start of a glut of films where knowledge of valency changing operations and morphosyntactic alignment in obscure New Guinea languages saves the world. Grammar has never been this exciting, or important. An instant classic.
I think anti-British opinion or a let’s-forget-the-past mindset are more prevalent in Australia than in New Zealand. Therefore, Australian might well change their flag first — and so NZL and Australia’s flag will no longer be similar, as this was one reason people gave for changing the NZL flag.
So voting has begun in the New Zealand flag referendum. I’ve gotta say, I like the alternative flag design by Kyle Lockwood. It really is very good. But to me it lacks the necessary gravitas. Why? Well, it looks a bit more like a logo than a national flag. To my eyes, anyway. I think it’s to do with the way the fern is incorporated into the design. I would like to put forward my own ideas again as first shown online almost two years ago:
[This post contains some language that may be deemed offensive]
Hairy, bipedal, primate, Robin Williams, passed away on Monday. The ex-actor (dead, remember) and 1998 Academy Award Winner died from an apparent suicide. No longer will we hear him scream his catchphrase Goood Morning Vietnaaaaam! – because his contractual obligations on that film expired more than 25 years ago, and he is dead (See previous parenthetical comment).
My wife’s first reaction: “Nooo! Why not Brad Pitt instead…?”  Why not Brad Pitt, indeed: the question on everyone’s lips. My wife loved Robin Williams so much: he was her idol, second only to Patrick Swayze… “All my favourite people are dying… since I met you”, my wife eyed me suspiciously at breakfast as we heard news of Williams’s demise. Swayze’s death was long-coming and, although sad, completely expected. But when Swayze finally gave up the ghost (see what I did there? Also, note: the only thing funnier than a pun is a pun explained or pointed out), my wife didn’t let me get any sex for six months. Perhaps mentally picturing a dead man every time she let me have my wicked way was just a turn off for her. I’m terrified the same may happen now that Robin Williams is gone: what were you thinking, Robin!?
Robin Williams’s films helped define my childhood
But quite apart the imminent loss of nookie, I am genuinely in shock and very upset. How can you feel this for someone you’ve never met, never said “hi” to– this numbness and the sense that nothing is real or meaningful anymore? Robin Williams was 63, and I, a mere 29 (chronologically speaking, although psychically my Wii Fit says I am 43), I have never known a world without him. Sure, I’ve never known a world without A. Robinson from Crosby-on-Eden in Carlisle, either , but the difference is I grew up with Robin Williams. His films bled into my mind and helped form my outlook on life – for better or worse(!) He was like a kindly uncle you’d see once a year, and who’d never fail to bring a smile to your face. Indeed, me being a member of Generation Y, Robin Williams and his films practically raised me as my parents couldn’t frankly be bothered to adequately balance work commitments with nurturing their sole sprog.
The eerie thing is this: the week leading up to his death, me and the wife randomly decided to binge on Robin Williams. We had a Robin Williams-athon: two and sometimes three of his films, every day, for a week. It’s like we almost knew what was coming as we drunk him in… it’s certainly difficult to deny that this constitutes overwhelming evidence for ESP. During this Robin Williams-athon, we rediscovered some films we’d forgotten about, and I broke down in tears at the conclusion of BicentennialMan, having one of my periodic existential crises. I consoled myself with the knowledge that the film was based on a story by brainy sci-fi heavyweight Isaac Asimov, and that therefore it was intellectually valid to cry at a Robin Williams flick: truth be told, you made me cry so many times, you hairy, stout, hook-nosed, wonderful bastard!
My idols growing up – not just “guys I liked a bit” –, and I swear I’m not kidding: Rik Mayall (died two months ago), Robin Williams, Michael Jackson, and Rolf – seriously. Unlike the last two, however, Robin Williams didn’t enjoy (allegedly) touching up prepubescent cock and/or vag. He was by all accounts a giving and kindly man. Yet he had his dark side that we’re all hearing so much about now. But I don’t want to dwell on that: Robin Williams brought me so much joy, and that’s how I’ll remember him.
(Oh, I also idolised John Cleese, but nothing much has happened to him (the odd divorce aside), so mentioning him would spoil the dramatic point I was making).
Mork and Mindy: not a funny show
I remember as a young child in the late eighties watching re-runs of Mork and Mindy, the show that launched Williams’ career. Not because it was a good show – it wasn’t: we watched it because there were only four channels in those days and it was raining outside. But I thank God he did make that programme or else the vastly superior semi-remake Third Rock From The Sun would likely never have been made at all (I imagine). And without MorkandMindy, Robin Williams probably never would have broken through in quite the way he did, and for that reason too, I’m thankful for Mork and Mindy.
Thank you, Mr. Williams.
Thank you for inventing Flying Rubber (Flubber): I had a great day out that one time my aunty-to-be took me to the cinema in order to transparently ingratiate herself to me such that I would consent to her marrying my uncle.
Thank you for being the foil in The Birdcage and giving us a delicate, beautiful performance.
Thank you for Jumanji: this film inspired many a daydream, may have helped instill a love of boardgames which lasts to the present day, and I also won a t-shirt from a Jumanji themed Twister ice cream competition, a win I enjoyed as I was suffering personally at the time.
Thank you for the tender loving father and for the cross-dressing slapstick in Mrs Doubtfire.
Thank you for The Fisher King: your depiction of Parry was moving and the blurring of reality and fantasy which you portrayed so well meant a lot to a teen obsessed with the nature of reality and concerned by his own failing mind.
Thank you for Good Will Hunting: it was the first film of yours I saw which impressed upon me your incredible talent.
I want to say thank you for Hook, but it never quite did it for me. Think it’s because I’ve always kind of been suspicious of Peter Pan (and had long since conflated Peter Pan and Michael Jackson sleepovers in my mind). But, yeah, okay, for my wife’s sake: Thank you for Hook!
Thank you for Big… no, wait, that was Tom Hanks. Never mind.
Indeed, Thank you for every single film you ever made. That includes the odd dud, because even they meant I got to spend more time with you.
So, thank you, Robin Williams (I know he can’t hear me because of the aforementioned being dead and all, but these sorts of things are always addressed to the person regardless of how little sense that makes), thank you so much for all the laughs, all the tears.You touched my heart so many times. No, I’m not one of those people who became a teacher because of the Dead Poet’s Society , but you made a difference to my life, you made my existence richer and more joyful. I miss you already.
Basically, academics have realised (because they’re so deep and insightful) that the system of dating things “BC” (before Christ) or “AD” comes from Christianity… and is therefore not really appropriate for objective, neutral, and politically correct purposes. Unfortunately, the genius solution (irony alert) they have adopted, of using CE and BCE (before Common Era), is… still derived from Christianity.
Because 2014 CE is… 2014 AD. And 1066 CE is… 1066 AD. And 54 BCE is… 54 BC. So, despite the cosmetic changes, they are still using the same dating system! It’s like calling a “shovel” a “spade”; it’s still the same thing. And yet these egg-heads parade their intelligence and flaunt their superiority by using their hokey (B)CE system. I’ve even been reprimanded for writing BC/AD instead of (B)CE in a university essay!
The funny thing is this: I’m an atheist. That’s right: I don’t even believe God exists(!) So the chances of me being a Christian, or pushing a Christian agenda, are almost nil. And yet I say: let’s keep the BC/AD system! Why change it? I mean, it works well, we know what we’re talking about when we say “2014 AD”, and who cares whether the acronyms really mean “before Christ” and “in the year of our Lord”? Are we renaming the days of the week because they are named after heathen Gods?  Wednesday: Woden’s Day; Thursday: Thor’s Day; and Monday: Moon day — and the moon’s not even a god, it’s just a big lump of rock!
We’re not French here, for heaven’s sake! (note: unless you are French, that is) So why should be go around binning stuff just because it doesn’t fit in with our ideology? Look: BC/AD works, everyone gets it, so why change it?
But you know what, if you are going to change it, let’s do it properly. Instead of this stupid (B)CE system — which is just the BC/AD system with a facelift — let’s make up a new system which is truly global, neutral, and objective.
God, this is exciting! I know!
We need to pick an event that has global significance, not just significance “local” to any particular group — such as the birth of Jesus.
One of the most significant events in recorded human history, something that changed it all, something that literally made recorded human history possible: the invention of writing. Writing allowed poetry to be passed on over thousands of years, business accounts to be “cooked”, lewd graffiti to be scrawled in public toilets, and thousands of Hitler ‘taches to be drawn on countless page three girls up and down this green and pleasant land since c. 1965 AD/CE.
This glorious moment, the invention of writing, happened in around 3100 BC(E). So there we go: blammo! Welcome to the year 5114 WrE (Writing Era), A.K.A. 2014 CE/AD. Or anno, err, scriptorius… whatever.
Having said that, let’s not be wankers. Let’s just keep BC/AD, you stupid brilliantly stupidly intelligent egg-headed moronic genius dimwit boffs!
But having said that, if you do insist on changing, change to my system, for it is better, yea, and do yield unto me a monthly tithe for use of my system. Yea.
TOP 5 FORGETFUL SPORTS STARS, YEEHAW NEWS (SPOOF ARTICLE)
5. In 1993 Michael Jordan shocked the world by turning away from basketball and turning out for baseball’s the Chicago White Sox. He caused even more of a stir when, on returning to basketball 18 months later, he came fully kitted out in pitcher’s glove, cap, and bat. Despite the initial shock, Jordan put in an unorthodox performance and scored three home runs as the Chicago Bulls beat the Orlando Magic 74-21 in the NBA finals.
4. Back in 2007, Javier Mascherano forget he’d signed a five year, twenty million pound deal with FC Barcelona and shocked colleagues by turning up to train at Anfield on the first day of pre-season.
“We didn’t want to break it to him”, said club legend Steven Gerrard, “his wife had just left him for John Terry at the time and I think his Argie mind wasn’t all there”
Mascherano played out a full 17 games for Liverpool before FC Barcelona decided to break the news to him and bring him kicking and screaming to the Camp Nou.
3. Top thug Ashley Cole forgot he was married to Cheryl Cole and went home and shagged Cheryl’s bandmate, Kimberley Walsh. The case of mistaken identity only came to light on the couple’s wedding anniversary when Cheryl turned up on a Bahamas beach and demanded a divorce. Ashley Cole’s defence of, “I’m sorry darling, but all you white chicks look the same to me” didn’t go down well, but later a qualified sportologist confirmed that the champion marksman Cole was definitely not insane, or drunk. Ashley and Cheryl remarried a week later and, in a gey twist of fate, Walsh was the bridesmaid.
2. Number two on our list, Rio Ferdinand, who, on the Saturday morning of the 14th of April, 2004, between 7.43 and 9.21am, forgot to act like a self-important, smug prick. All were stunned.
1. Perhaps the greatest shock in sporting history, however, came when 1936 FA cup legend, Clifford Bastin, forgot he had died in 1991, and turned in a stellar performance for Arsenal against Manchester United in the 2005 FA Cup final, ultimately scoring twice and being awarded man of the match. When a news reporter questioned him post-match on this unlikely turn of events, he yelled “eek” and disappeared in a puff of ash never to be seen again.
The Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, has said he wants to change the flag of New Zealand. The country needs a new flag to “acknowledge our independence”, and to represent modern New Zealand, rather than the current flag which, he says, “symbolises a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has now passed”. He calls for a flag that represents New Zealand as “it is now” rather than as it “once was”. He feels so strongly about it that he’s just announced that he’ll call a referendum on the issue within the next three years.
Of course, unless you’re totally ignorant, you’ll know what he’s talking about; the New Zealand flag, in a potentially twee and amusing manner, still has the British Union Jack stapled in the corner. This was standard across the Empire.
All the Colonies had a similar flag design: in the top left-hand corner (technically, the “canton”), the Union Flag; the rest, a field (usually red or blue) with some kind of coat of arms standing for the colony in question. Here are some examples.
Bermuda, Falklands, the British Indian Ocean Territory, and Canada. Wait, what? Yes, Canada’s flag looks a little different here. It was only in 1965 that the flag was changed to its current maple leaf design. There was an outcry for a new flag to show that Canada is its own country, no longer a colony of the “mother country”.
Canada’s “new”, iconic flag
Papua New Guinea’s flag
And similar voices can be heard in Australia and New Zealand, two countries which periodically consider ditching their colonial-style flags. I’m not going to weigh in on whether they should ditch their flags — but to say that a mere 28% of New Zealanders currently want to change the flag — I’m only going to make some suggestions for what they might want to change their flags to if they decide to change their flags at all.
But before I go on, it’s worth noting that out of New Zealand and Australia, NZL might have more cause to change; people often mistake their flag for the Australian one, but nobody ever mistakes the Aussie flag for the kiwi one! Poor New Zealanders. And so this article will only concern itself with the New Zealand flag.
What Makes a Good Flag?
A good flag should be iconic, recognisable, unmistakable, and should resonate with what the nations stands for and its heritage; yet, equally, it should be simple. So, here’s some criteria:
Reflect nation’s culture and/or history in a non-partisan way
Simple, powerful design
Sounds obvious, but: should be well-designed and look like it could actually be a real flag
Canada’s maple leaf flag, as well as the flags of other ex-colonies such as Papua New Guinea, provide good models for what is possible.
Depicting an Entire Culture in a flag
A New Zealand flag should probably represent both European and Maori heritage. But it shouldn’t imply the two are distinct or cannot co-exist. Indeed, it should show the oneness of the nation without implying homogeneity. Tricky. I think that, instead of European symbols or Maori iconography, a safer model is that followed by Canada and Papua New Guinea: let’s look to nature, something all Kiwis can get behind. It seems to me that New Zealand has three widely recognised emblems, two of which are unmistakably only New Zealand, all three of which are nature motifs. They are:
The Southern Cross (with red stars): a symbol shared with other Pacific nations
The Silver Fern
The Kiwi bird
Note also that the widely-recognised de facto New Zealand colours are black and white.
I suggest that any flag worthy of our four design goals and worthy of the Kiwi people, regardless of their ancestry, would incorporate one or more of these three symbols plus the black-white colour scheme.
Therefore, I humbly make the following suggestions.
Flag Idea 1: “Swiss Style”
“Swiss-style” NZL flag
I call this the “Swiss Style” Flag. It’s a square, like the Swiss flag, which along with the Vatican flag is one of only two square flags in the world. A square flag: now that’s distinctive. It also features the black and white New Zealand colours. And the current red-starred Southern Cross. The red of the stars also echo British and Maori colours. And I think that the use of arguably the most powerful colour combination ever — red, white, black — is another plus.
It ticks all four of our criteria. A great flag if I do say so myself.
Flag Idea 2
PNG inspired NZL flag: black kiwi on white
PNG inspired NZL flag: all black white kiwi
This flag is most obviously inspired by the Papua New Guinea example due to its bird motif: a Kiwi-style Southern Cross in the Kiwi colour scheme with the most Kiwi of all Kiwi things: a Kiwi. The PNG flag of course features the national bird of PNG. Exactly the same as the Flag Idea 1 above but expanded to include the bird.
Two variants: one all black, one with a black kiwi on a white field. Proportion is 1:2, the same as the present New Zealand flag. But we might decide to opt for, say, 3:5; certainly the all black version looks better to me as 3:5. Why? Because there is a more aesthetically pleasing gap between the kiwi and the Southern Cross (the split white/black version does not seem to have as large a gap due to the wonders of optical illusion).
Again, ticks all four criteria.
Flag Idea 3
Southern cross and black fern NZL flag
All black southern cross and silver fern NZL flag
This flag is the same as Flag 2 but goes in the Canadian direction of opting for plant life. Yes, that other NZL symbol: the silver fern. Again, two variants: one all black, and one with a white half.
Another design which fits our four criteria.
Flag 2 + 3
“All of the above” NZL flag
Basically a combination of Flag Ideas 2 & 3. I like that this one incorporates all three of the Kiwi symbols in one flag. It’s somewhat busier, of course, but I think it works very nicely. This could also work with a white kiwi and fern.
Blue Fern and Southern Cross NZL flag
This tries to be more conservative by essentially leaving the flag as it is but for the removal of the Union Jack on the left-hand side and its replacement by the fern. It also happens to be my least favourite one — mainly because of the colour scheme, but also because I feel putting the cross to the right of the fern looks a bit clumsy (to me). I think both that the Southern Cross is a must, and that it must replace the Union Flag on the left-hand side (the “hoist”) of the flag.
Flags 5 & 6
Couple more variations on the above.
Natural Heritage Black Background with White Stripe NZL flag
Canada-like Arrangement Natural Heritage NZL flag
So there we are. Whether New Zealand ever changes its flag or not, and I express no opinion either way, I believe my designs are pretty fricking awesome. What do you think? (if you disagree, you’re wrong)
*I came up with all flag designs on this page. However, whilst that therefore includes Flag Design 4, I genuinely don’t remember if the flag 4 herein used was physically designed by me, or whether I saw that someone else had come up with the same design and so decided to borrow their construction.
“New Zealand to hold referendum on new, ‘post-colonial’ flag” by Toby Manhire (11th March 2014)
10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Spain and the Spanish
My wife is Spanish. What I thought would be a splendid union of two noble cultures has been far more prosaic than I hoped. Here’s some of the things I’ve learnt over the last few years about Spain and the Spanish that you probably didn’t know.
1. Say It With Grapes
At New Year, Spaniards all around the world gather in the town square and wait for the main clock to chime twelve. Nothing odd about that. But instead of dropping the ball, as in New York, or smashing nearby cars up and passing out in their own vomit, as in England, they eat grapes. One per dong. More difficult than it sounds: one grape per second, no spills allowed. Even more trying given that the Spanish hadn’t even discovered the seedless grape till circa 1999.
Have you got a hold of your grapes yet?
You’re probably aware that Spain uses the continental two-pin plug. What you might not be aware of is that in Spain, the plug sockets have no on/off switch. In the beginning, I thought my girlfriend (as she was then) was drunk or stupid when she would stare at an obviously turned off (UK) plug socket and complain that the phone/computer/house must be faulty. Even now I forget and try to turn Spanish plugs on/off. Even now my wife forgets to turn British plugs on.
3. Manners (Part 1)
They don’t say “please” and “thanks”. Simple as. If you say them in Spanish as often as I hope you do in English, you will sound completely servile and probably mad. Just learn to gesticulate like a foreigner. And if your English friends complain that you are affecting a Frenchy air of late, tell them that it’s Spanish, actually, and that’s how they speak.
4. Manners (Part 2)
So, many years ago now, I went to a shop on my holidays in Spain. I bought my stuff, said “por favor” and “gracias” – although the shop assistant didn’t join in, the rude cow (see above). And when it was over, I held out my cupped hand, ready for the weighty clunk of change – at which point she looked at my hand, sniffed, and slapped the money down on the counter. So rude.
It kept happening though. Did my blotchy, sun-inflamed skin give me away as a filthy Englishman/German (see next point)? Or did I just have that sort of face?
Eventually, I met my gem of a girl. One day we went to a shop (in England). She paid. The cashier held out their cupped hand, ready to receive the coins. And my girlfriend looked at the hand, sniffed, and slapped the change down on the counter! Who had I gotten myself involved with? Some etiquette-shunning harpy?! As it turned out, no one in Spain places money in the hand. I’ve asked why, but nobody knows. They just don’t. And the “sniffs”, I presume, were disapproval at my ignorance of local customs Cupped hands! What next? Not slaughtering bulls for fun!?
Fun Fact: the Spanish are doing it wrong. It takes ages to pick the coins up off the counter.
5. Estranjeros (“Foreigners”)
The famous Spanish cartoon: Pato Lucas
The English don’t like speaking “foreign” or doing “foreign” things – as if “foreign” were a homogenous category, several shades of class lower than “English”, and one shade higher than “creature”.
But small-minded, arrogant, no-history Yanks are worse, what with their incessant remaking of non-English language films into (generally inferior) American versions. Even in little England we don’t tend to dub foreign movies. Although we don’t bother going to see them, either.
And the French! They won’t even speak to you in English – even though they understand it, even though you talk loudly!
But the Spanish aren’t immune to a touch of chauvinism.
When it comes to films, the Spanish just dub dub dub. I’ve even met Spaniards who are under the impression that much of their American-dubbed culture is, in fact, Spanish(!) And so the Spanish can only speak Spanish. And so the Spanish never visit non-Spanish-speaking lands.
And worse still, they can’t tell the difference between us and the Germans(!) I keep trying to tell my Spanish friends: we don’t wear sandals with socks! That’s those insane Germans, again! The response? You’re the same thing, aren’t you?
6. Manners (3)
You may know that the Spanish greet with two kisses, one on each cheek. What you may not know is that, even if you or the other person has a raging cold, it is seriously bad form to refuse the kiss. Protestations of being ill will not cut it. Pucker up.
I barely kiss my own mother, but I’m obligated to kiss sick people I don’t know… if they’re Spanish.
7. Plugs (Part 2)
Plugs again. The hottest of all searingly hot topics.
Me and the wife in a hotel. wife goes into bathroom.
Wife: Brrryan, where’s the plug socket?
Me: What, darling?
Wife: The plug. I need to drrrrry my hairrrrr.
Me: Um, sweetums. There aren’t any plug sockets in the bathroom. Anywhere. Ever.
Me: Err, it’s… not safe, sugar lump… because water could go… in there (blank looks from the wife) … and… KILL you…
Wife: (pause) But I need to drrrry my hairrrr.
The problem here, you see, is that cowboy builders designed all the electrics in Spain. All bathrooms have plug sockets (which don’t turn off, remember). And all plugs are two-pin, so plugs end up hanging halfway out. And in the bathroom they end up all dewy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been mildly electroshocked.
A funny thing to get twangs of patriotism about, really, plugs. But there you are. God save our Great British three-pin plugs and plugless bathrooms.
8. All Beaches Are Nudist
All men, and women, whip out their bits and march up and down the beaches nude. And yet there still is a separate category of “nudist” beech; presumably on these, they take their skin off.
9. Joie de Vivre (Wrong Language, I know)
The land of fiestas and flamenco. The British love the Spanish and Spain. When Brits hear my wife’s accent they excitedly ask her, “Are you… Spanish? You’re so lucky”. The food, the wine, the sunkissed beaches. We admire their culture. We are overawed by how loving, open, happy and unBritish they are. The Spanish believe life is for living, whereas the British treat it as a chore to be begrudgingly undertaken. But the land of love has a dark side.
Simply put: they’re incredibly racist. They don’t don white sheets and wield flaming crosses on horseback. No. But they do have a rather low view of non-whites. I’m tired of hearing Spanish people talk about the “smell” of black people, or how foreigners are all weird or stupid.
2008 Olympics Spanish basketball team doing the hilarious “slitty eyes” joke; some “fans” of Lewis Hamilton giving him some Spanish-style love.
10. They’re Insane. Fact.
Whether they’re tossing donkeys from balconies. Whether they’re releasing 2000lb bulls in an alleyway and screaming after they hurl themselves on its horns. Whether they’re strapping fireworks to their back, lighting them, and careening down packed streets. Whether they’re pelting each other with tomatoes and in so doing destroying the Spanish fruit and veg export industry. One fact remains.
Favourite Spanish passtimes: goat tossing, using a bull’s horns as a dildo, strapping live explosives to your back in a crowded place, assault and battery with fruit.
In the Star Trek universe, baseball and other sports as we know them have died out. No more World Series, no more Super Bowl, no more World Cup. These games still exist, kinda, but are played with all the professionalism or seriousness of rounders or “had“. This may seem like futuristic sci-fi nonsense, but I genuinely believe this will happen. And I’m sad for it.
The Money Men Are Killing Football
I love football. The speed, the strength, the skill, the free-flowing nature of it. It truly is the “beautiful game”. However, the money men are in charge nowadays. Well, they’ve always been in charge, of course, but the ruining of the European Championship — 24 teams in the finals, no host nation — after what was arguably the most exciting Championship ever (2012), the transparent greed and corruption involved in the awarding of the beyond-risible Qatar 2022 World Cup, and now the nonsense that is this new UEFA Nations League, have confirmed it: the money-lenders are no longer merely squatting in the temple of football; they’ve bought the freehold and have erected a fence to keep the plebs out, permanently.
Bloated tournaments to fatten the pockets of bloated men, the fans paying through the nose, and the purity of the game slaughtered, its blood smeared on the smoking altar of our twenty-first century Golden Bull: Avarice. 1863, meet 2014. It’s not just football, of course; the commercialisation of sport proceeds apace in all areas: from franchises in cricket, to ridiculous branding on billboards or team shirts (A few years ago, when branding on football shirts was less common in Spanish football, my brother-in-law asked me, in all seriousness, if my team was “Hertings First For Fixings FC“), the idiotic stadium naming (KP Stadium, Reebok, Emirates, Sports Direct Stadium), or the joke that is a 60 minute game turning into a three hour one because of excessive adverts (American football). The list goes on and on.
The Commercialisation of Sport is a Double-Edged Sword
The funny thing is, the continuing commercialisation in sport is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it has raised the level of competition, quality, and yes, beauty of the game, by giving sportsmen the ability to earn a decent living off their game, and this has allowed them to practise and out-compete each other to a high level. But the downsides are obvious and numerous. In the long run, I see the strengths inherent in the commercialisation of sport ultimately bringing its downfall.
So, dear Internet, I put my gloomy foretelling into writing for posterity; if I’m right, please pay homage to my grave and pay for Chinese lessons for my great-grand children in honour of their forebear’s prescience.
In the year of our Lord (Sepp Blatter) 2114:
1. The World Cup and European Championships will both run every season, like international analogues respectively of the Champions’ League and the Europa League.
2. A combination of the drive for money and a withering away of the nation state will result in the national teams effectively being replaced by national league teams; anyone who plays in the Premier League that season is eligible to represent England, aka The Starbucks Premier League, in both tournaments.
3. The nation state-based tournament, a descendent of this new UEFA Nations League, will exist, but:
(ii) Clubs and National League Teams (see point 2) will routinely refuse to make their players available to play in this nations’ cup — or they would refuse, that is, if the players wanted to play in the nations’ cup, which they won’t!;
(iii) the national teams will be watered-down nationality-wise due to the death of the nation state and lax sporting restrictions;
(iv) nobody will care about the International tournaments with nation states taking part as these tournaments will be less sexy and less glitzy than the over-hyped national leagues teams football (see point two).
No, I’m serious
Think I’m crazy or joking? It’s already happening.
The European Championships are already starting to look like the Champions and Europa Leagues: too many games, too many teams, no one host nation.
Foreign players regularly turn out for a national side in other sports (Pietersen in cricket, Tuilagi in Rugby, and so on). It’ll soon become prevalent in football, too: remember a few seasons ago, before the rise of Joe Hart, everyone suggesting Manuel Almunia should play for England based on the five year residency rule? That might have been crazy talk, but the substance of it will be increasingly borne out in the future just as it is in other sports.
Clubs regularly refuse, if only in the guise of mystery illnesses, to let their players attend to international duties. Clubs regularly complain that there are too many international fixtures (bear in mind, the international fixtures haven’t increased in recent years, but club fixtures have dramatically jumped up).
And it’s kind of our fault…
And ask yourself: which would be the more exciting game — England vs. Spain, or Premier League XI vs. La Liga? Wouldn’t “England” have a much better chance if we could “buy” foreign players? After all, you don’t have to be born in a town to play for its club (how many of, e.g., Manchester City’s players were born in England, let alone Manchester??): and the one club that does do this — Athletic Bilbao — seems to be a relic from the pleistocene (albeit it, a much-admired one), a relic which is struggling to keep up.
Would you rather watch, literally, amateurs kick a ball around (if so, go to your nearest park)? Or would you rather watch the finely honed beast that commercialisation has crafted?
Let me introduce to the world the paradox of sporting commercialisation. Let’s call it “Bryan’s Law” (I always wanted a law named after me, and short of committing an atrocious yet ground-breaking crime, this is the best I’m likely to do): the beautiful game is beautiful because its practitioneers can dedicate sufficient hours to make it beautiful — because of commercialisation. But commercialisation is destroying the beauty of sport.
Yay, hearken unto my foretelling, and be downcast.