How does the Olympics make you feel?

News reaches me that the authorities plan to use the London Eye to project a Twitter snapshot of how the nation feels about the Olympics every night the games are on.

What colour the wheel changes to and how much of it is lit up will reflect an analysis of millions of UK tweets for whether they are broadly positive or broadly negative.

Which strikes me as a bit of a gamble. Presumably the object is to show that people are enjoying the endeavour, but my own sense is that most aren’t. There are two people in particular in my Facebook timeline who are enthusiastic about the Olympics, but then they both have jobs at the games and so Mandy Rice Davies applies. Everyone else is spectacularly Eeyorish about it, as this wonderful New York Times piece explains:

LONDON — While the world’s athletes limber up at the Olympic Park, Londoners are practicing some of their own favorite sports: complaining, expecting the worst and cursing the authorities.

Asked “What do you feel about the Olympics?” the other day, a random sampling of people here gave answers that included bitter laughter; the words “fiasco,” “disaster” and “police state”; and detailed explanations of how they usually get to work, how that is no longer possible and how very unhappy that makes them.

The piece goes on to describe the Daily Mail as having the unofficial motto “What Fresh Hell is This?”

One of the main reasons for emulating the anhedonic donkey is there are just so many reasons why the Olympics might make you feel grumpy: the London focus; the cost to the taxpayer; the militarisation; the sponsors (“some of the worst corporations in the world“; the stuff about brand protection – whether or not true; and the exhortation only to write nice things about the Olympic website.

I am hardly the person to be objective on the issue of the Olympics as I don’t actually like sport of any kind at all – and yet even I have been a little tempted to try and get tickets to something to see what all the fuss is about. Far less to actually watch any sport happening – I really don’t give a rat’s ass – but I am quite keen to see what all the fuss is and see the Olympic Park from a urban planning perspective. It featured on Gardener’s Question Time and sounded interesting. I’ve visited, for example, Munich’s Olympic Park, mainly to climb the Olympiaturm, and that piqued my interest. How long will it be – if ever – before London’s Olympic Park is opened to a wider public? Will anyone ever be able to climb the crumpled rollercoaster without an event ticket, or will the whole thing be dismantled and boarded up as soon as the Paralympics wheel out of town? (Loads of tickets left for the Paralympics, if you wanted to get to see the site and/or experience the Arabfly Dangleway.)

When the torch came to town, I did sort of go and see what all the fuss was about – by being a bellringer for the occasion as the torch came past one of the churches I ring at regularly anyway. I was grudgingly impressed by the huge number of people who turned out to see it, and the city was incredibly fortunate with the weather – just hours before, rain had beaten the torch back into the van in Mansfield, soaking dozens of the kids I taught a few months ago, and yet in Nottingham the glorified cigarette lighter got blazing sunshine.

It’s just my abiding thought about all of the trappings of the Olympics – the torch parade, the park, the building projects, the precision of the planning, which has taken hundreds of people to do, the faffing in the regions – is that this is all something of a huge waste of human endeavour. What could be achieved if all this money and good will could be put to use for something more worthwhile?

But then that is what I think about sport more generally, so perhaps I’m not the best placed person to judge. And it’s not as if I have any actual suggestions as to what that more productive thing might be, so perhaps I should just shut up and let the enthusiasts get on with it all.


(At least) three things that are wrong on so many levels

1) Theft in multi-storey car parks ((c) Tim Vine)

2) The leaning tower of Pisa (*) (@facesake)

3) Farting in lifts.

Also, getting caught telling filthy dyslexia jokes in the staffroom by the headteacher as he washes out his mug.

For the record, a student colleague kicked us off with the notion that DNA stands for National Dyslexic Association. And so I chipped in with my series of similar spelling jokes recorded over the years. The are as follows:

Dyslexic pimp – bought a warehouse
Dyslexic devil worshipper – sold his soul to Santa
Dyslexic, agnostic, insomniac – stayed up all night wondering if there was a dog (Jasper Carrott)

(Which also leads to the necrophiliac sadistic guy into bestiality who wondered if he was flogging a dead horse)

I also forgot the fabled slogan of the DNA – Dyslexics of the world – untie! – but I did get in the joke stolen from @Pundamentalism just this morning – his filthy reimagining of the old standard cheesy chatup line “If I could rearrange the alphabet I’d put DNA inside U.”

Fourteen years ago, I caused a bit of offence on Usenet with a series of schizophrenic jokes not hugely dissimilar from the ones above. Worryingly, the text of what I wrote on the Archers newsgroup fourteen years ago is still easily findable and I have just been rereading the subsequent exchange. In a way, I don’t know what’s more disturbing – that I can recall the exchange fourteen years later, or that it’s so easy to find throwaway conversations after such a long time. I rest assured that anyone going for dirt on me would have an awful lot to dig through.

And the substantive point, made by Simon Townley so well, still remains: outsider jokes like the schizophrenic and dyslexic ones are funny, but also have masses of capacity to offend those directly affected. They are almost always completely inaccurate in their characterization of the nature of the other. And so my conclusion: I will probably carry on telling these jokes, but they are almost certainly better placed in the pub than the staffroom. I have no idea what sort of sense of humour my present headteacher has.

(*) I have been consulting style guides to work out capitalization, but Guardian and Wikipedia silent thereon.

When twitter gets… heated

A friend sends me a link to a news story about a spat between two councillors – one being interviewed on the radio, and the other responding simultaneously – and robustly – via Twitter.

The story is here – but don’t click it if mild profanity might offend.

Like so many things, there’s the funny side of the story, which is why the link was sent, and the salutary lesson. In this case the lesson is that twitter is very informal and can sometimes encourage the use of, erm, unparliamentary language. And should you be an elected representative, swearing can land you in trouble. Councillors are routinely reported to the Standards Board for swearing at or about each other. So while the country likes to pretend that all politicians are paragons of virtue who never allow even the least unsavoury expression to pass their lips, remember to use the same level of language however and to whomever you communicate.

If you are on Twitter and you can’t remember whether you swear there or not, then Cursebird can rapidly tell you how much you swear and just how offensive you are. I apparently “swear like a teacher’s pet.” Cursebird maintains a league table of the sort of swearwords that would make a trooper blush, so don’t click here until you have shepherded your womenfolk, children, pets and servants out of room and you are sure none will be offended.

And whilst you’ve got the room to yourself, here’s one more link to the sort of content that might get you into trouble. Earlier today, Iain Dale posted a video of how to conduct a testicular exam, following the news that a favourite footballer of his had been diagnosed with testicular cancer. This disease is a big killer of men in their late teens and twenties (along with suicide and road accidents) so I have no qualms about helping as many people as possible hear about. Not least since testicular cancer can easily be treated if caught in the early stages.