Saturday, 22 August 2009

Usain Bolt Redeems Himself

Yeah, yeah, I know ... he's the world's premier sporting supernova and gets 5 million bucks just for showing up these days (and so he should, probably even more).

And yes, of course, he does not care one iota what some pimply little punk in rural England (me) thinks about his antics. Who am I to have an opinion?

But it's all becoming clear to me now.

Yesterday was Usain Bolt's 23rd birthday. He got a standing ovation from the entire Berlin stadium. How cool was that? Then he clowned around with the Berlin mascot ... and his two fellow competitors on the podium. Spontaneous, unscripted ... and utterly charming. I felt like I knew who he really was.

Why? Because he was being himself. And, by all apearances, he seems like a stand-up guy. Relaxed, fresh faced, beautifully constructed, genuine ... and completely at ease in his own skin.

After watching the whole medal presentation and the way he handled himself, I actually felt pretty bad that I had even thought to criticise his showboating in the past. He is who he is. People love him. And that's obviously enough.

Then the media started to milk the occasion and show footage that they felt would really whip the masses into a frenzy. Usain Bolt doing his jig. Usain Bolt wiping his fingers across his face and leering at the camera. Usain Bolt strutting around like a big, proud rooster.

And then I got it. I finally realised that there are two people.

The one is Usain Bolt, the man. He over-delivers on performance and fulfills the fantasies of any human being who appreciates human movement at its most elegant. He is also unique, serendipidous, confident, self-deprecating and endearing. A genuinely lovely human being without any arrogance to detract from his appeal. Hey, I'd even shake his hand.

Then there's Usain Bolt, the media darling. He's a clown. With that same overblown edge that all clowns have. You know, that wierd thing that makes adults think clowns must be funny to kids, when actually they are scary. Adults just don't get that. And neither does the media.

This "Usain Bolt" is an imposter. A fabrication. A commercial product designed to titillate the baying masses. This is something totally incongruent with Usain Bolt, the enduring legend. And there will come a time when people will realise that the memories that will last are not those that are crass ... but those that are genuine, humble and understated.

A perfect backdrop to majestic magnificence. A man who, in full flight, is cocaine to the senses. But whose smile and instinctive, natural flamboyance makes the media's larger-than-life concoction redundant.

That mascot is proving to be far more special than I could have hoped for.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Usain Bolt - Beyond Superlatives

Readers of this blog will know that I have been outspoken in the past about the antics of Usain Bolt.

Because I am instinctively opposed to criticism without substance, I have also spent a fair bit of time trying to learn more about this extraordinary athlete. I figure that irrespective of whether or not I appreciate his signature style, at the end of the day how this 22 year-old phenomenon redefines his sport, is what really matters.

This weekend in Berlin Usain Bolt again proved that action speaks so much louder than words. In the final of the mens' 100m, he proved once more that what we are seeing is a whole new era of human performance.

Usian Bolt ran 9.58 seconds to win the World Championship title as fastest man alive. He obliterated his own world mark of 9.69 seconds, set at the Olympic Games last year. From start to finish he was in a class of his own. People will talk of this achievement 100 years from now.

Tyson Gay, running a remarkable 9.71 seconds, finished a distant runner-up, with ex-world record holder Osafa Powell coming in third with 9.84 seconds ... still respectable by any standard. But hardly noticed on the night.

Gay ran the third fastest time in history, but had to content himself with "only" the American record. This must seem vaguely reminiscent of the historical relationship between Mohammed Ali and Joe Frazier. Ali will for many be remembered as "the greatest", while Frazier will be remembered only as a credible opponent.

In another time, he too would have been king. And so it is with the soft-spoken Tyson Gay.

Perhaps Bolt will never again break a world record - his world record, so comprehensively. But then again, it would seem that the world has not seen the full extent of this young man's masterful potential. One can only fantasize.

I'd also like to say that, although I probably will never like the show-boating, it really is of no consequence in light of such a sublime performance. I also acknowledge that Usain Bolt could well have become arrogant beyond belief ... and he hasn't. So I can only take my hat off to him and respect him as a supreme athlete, eclipsing even the superhuman feats of my own personal favourite, Michael Jordon.

And I never thought I'd see that day when I could say that and mean it!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Organic Food ... A Tax on the Gullible!

Followers of my other blog will know that yesterday Lynne and I travelled to the Forest of Dean in search of some good old-fashioned spontaneous relaxation.

On the way home we pulled in to have a light meal and I was struck by a headline in the Sunday Times newspaper ... "Organic food is a tax on the gullible", written by a rather smug individual by the name of Dominic Lawson.

I got a wonderful response on Facebook regarding my previous post on this subject ... and it immediately became clear to me why I had waited an entire week to post again. I whizzed through the article as we ate, then surrupticiously nicked it for future reference. I can only hope I do this justice.

It's tough to know where to start with three columns of fine print brimming with potential.

Our Mr Lawson was of course referring to fallout received by nutritionist Alan Dangour who wrote a "peer-reviewed meta-study" (sounds important!) concluding that organically-grown food was not materially healthier than conventionally farmed produce.

What made this particularly unpalatable to some people was that this paper was funded by Britain's Food Standards Agency ... and therefore had a potentially enormous impact on prevailing sentiment. Not only that, mainstream media were crowing about this development as if God himself had spoken.

Apparently a storm of invective followed, only serving as proof (according to Lawson) that anyone outspoken in their disagreement with the findings of this particular study were now exposed as dissidents of the foulest order.

"They are cults masquerading as science rather like the creationists of America's Bible Belt ..." Lawson says. This after quoting NHS doctor Ben Goldacre "In my experience the (comments of the) organic food, anti-vaccine and homeopathy movements are unusually hateful and generally revolve around bizarre allegations that you covertly represent some financial or corporate interest".

The generalizations continue with quotes from French philosopher, Luc Ferry who infers that rhetoric against civilization is evidence of a broader "hatred" of humanity.

These must be the same evil people who advocate the occasional water fast, or who dare to suggest that pasteurized milk may not do a body good ... for more than just the obvious reasons.

Me thinks thou protesteth ...

Lawson goes on to state "The more rational among the organic movement long ago stopped claiming as scientific fact that their products are better for human beings". More semantic juggling ... "fact" is empirical, "better" is subjective. We get it, OK!

Apparently he deems himself somewhat of an expert in these things having nearly become "a fatal casualty of the organic movement" because he got sick from the spores of his wife's ill-fated pidgeon dropping organic vegetable garden (I kid you not!).

Regrettably, he contracted "atypical" pneumonia which was resistent to conventional medical intervention.

Oh, the terrible irony of it all. How his "gullible" (his word, not mine) wife must have got it in the neck!

Sorry ... it's a long and ponderous column, though well worth reading, if only for the rare insight it provides into the mentality of those among us that obviously do love humanity.

Our intrepid patient/journalist even goes on to conclude that pesticides must be safe otherwise how else would you explain research pointing to the comparative health of farmers relative to the rest of the population. Unassailable logic, don't you agree?

Finally, he rounds off his article by referring to the "organic balloon bursting" after making the point that common sense dictates "that diet, rather than whether food is produced 'organically' or not, is the key to healthy eating."

So that's it then folks ... conclusive evidence now in. Keep getting your nutrition from dairy, meat and plants grown in soils fortified by artificial nitrogen, phosporus and potassium.

Don't worry about chemical pesticides ... us humans are a hardy bunch (except when it comes to those dreaded, antibiotic-resistant bacteria in those "dirty" soils made by them hippies).

Have a nice day Mr Lawson.