Having spent a day on the soccer fields and being ready to think about anything other than soccer, I watched something I’ve been meaning to watch for years — a legendary BBC program in which John Cleese and Michael Palin of Monty Python defend the film Life of Brian in a debate with satirist and Christian convert Malcolm Muggeridge and Anglican bishop Mervyn Stockwood.
I watched it in four parts, then found that someone else posted the whole hour intact:
It’s equal parts fascinating and irritating.
Fascinating in the sense that it’s the sort of the discussion we simply can’t imagine having today. The participants are given plenty of time to speak. For the most part, it’s a genteel discussion that seems utterly foreign to anyone who has watched modern cable “news” for five minutes.
Irritating in the sense that the “Christian” guys are virtually caricatures. They make smug comments about the “10th-rate” film, and they insist on a rather narrow interpretation of the film. When Palin insists that they are not ridiculing Christ, their idea of a response is “humbug.”
What I love about Life of Brian is the same thing I love about a lot of my favorite comedies, including most of my favorite Simpsons episodes. It’s about the absurdity of the mob. It’s about groups that yell, “Yes, we are all individuals!” It’s about the splintering between the Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea.
What we thought before this game is just to do what our forefathers did. They at most endured, like, two or three days at home in peace, and then they had to destroy something. They had to go and fight war somewhere. They went with their boats and stuff like that, and we were just on our boats, destroying something. That’s how we went to the game, just to enjoy those 60 minutes like our (unintelligible) in life. That’s what you do. That’s what you live for.
I didn’t use it because I had no idea what he was talking about. Maybe Monty Python’s Njorl’s Saga sketch?
No, that didn’t help. And the goalkeeper isn’t a Bjork fan, anyway.
BBC readers are obsessed with the way the U.S. media order their medals table, insisting countries should be listed according to gold medals rather than totals.
Naturally, the assumption is not that this is simply a discrepancy in long-standing conventions, such as the differences between “cookie” and “biscuit” or the American stubbornness in resisting the metric system. The assumption is that we all used to list the medals sorted by golds, then changed when China surged to a commanding lead in that category.
Imagine my shock when someone dug up the USA TODAY medal count from Athens, from the stat feed whose specs I helped write, and we had it listed by gold medals. My guess is that we once gave readers the chance to sort it as they saw fit, and that functionality disappeared over one of the multitude of server migrations over the years.
Whatever the explanation, I’m sure it has no chance of being accepted by the folks who were hyping the 200 meters as a showdown between Usain Bolt and Christian Malcolm.
I love the BBC, but anyone from the UK who thinks Americans are the most provincial jerks in the world should take a look at the Beeb’s Olympics coverage. Yikes.
I also love Olympic News Service, which sends hordes of fresh-faced young folks to the venues to collect “flash quotes” from athletes.
You’re generally not going to get controversial material from these quotes, though. They have notepads and not tape recorders, and a 21-year-old generally isn’t going to trust his or her scribbled notes if anyone questions the quote’s accuracy. Also, the quote-taker might not be a native speaker of whatever language the athlete’s speaking.
So if you see someone in a mixed zone ranting as follows:
I was robbed. That ref was clearly watching beach volleyball instead of us. Yeah, my opponent played well, but he also took out a small knife and slashed my knee open right in front of the ref! I can’t believe this crap. I’m going back to the Olympic Village to count my blessings that he didn’t end my career, and you’d better believe I’m going to trash some rooms.
You’ll get this quote.
My opponent played well. I’m going back to the Olympic Village to count my blessings.
So I was surprised to see this from fourth-place high jumper Stefan Holm of Sweden:
I had a bit of luck four years ago in Athens, but shit happens.
ONS might be getting a little punchy near the end of the Games, as are many of us.
Speaking of sanitation, here’s a little sign to remind the media that plumbing in Beijing ain’t what they might be used to back home:
Off to catch the bus back to get a good night’s sleep, believe it or not.