Archive for December, 2008

About Chris Hoy

15 December 2008


I was thrilled that Chris Hoy won the sports personality of the year award last night, for lots of reasons. Partly because I’m a cycling fan, and it’s about time (Nicole Cooke should have won it a couple of years ago, and this year her achievement in becoming the first rider ever to win both the World Road Race and the Olympic Gold in the same year got completely lost in the BBC’s ‘Olympics’ narrative).

Partly because it might have been Lewis Hamilton otherwise: I know he’s the youngest ever winner of the world championship, but Formula 1 isn’t a real sport – if you take Hamilton and Massa out of their ultra-competitive McLarens and Ferraris and stick them into the other team’s cars, they won’t win any more.

Partly because Hoy’s achievement – three track golds – was world class, and he’d been winning at World Cup events through the year as well.

Partly because the discipline he won his gold medal in at Athens was scrapped, and he had to reinvent himself as a competitor in new events, including the tricky keirin. Partly because he seems, at least off the track, to lack ego (the other GB cyclists all say how much he gives to the team as a a whole).

And partly for the excuse to reprint this great quote from the Olympics, which kind of sums up the last point:

Asked, “What does Chris Hoy think of Chris Hoy?”, he replied, “Chris Hoy thinks that the day Chris Hoy refers to Chris Hoy in the third person is the day that Chris Hoy disappears up his own arse.”

There’s a good profile from the Times, published during the Olympics.


The pattern of abundance

4 December 2008


From a plaque at the entrance to Ford’s Highland Plant plant in Detroit, where in 1913 the first cars were made on a conveyor belt – and therefore one of the most significant locations of industrial society:

“Mass production soon moved from here to all phases of American industry and set the pattern of abundance for 20th-century living.”

I loved the notion of the ‘pattern of abundance’ and the implicit idea that it belonged to the 20th century – one of those phrases that means more with hindsight. It’s a wasteland now, of course.

The picture is from the University of Michigan’s materials on the role of the automobile in life and society.

Mayakovsky and cleverness

3 December 2008


A snippet on how the great revolutionary poet Mayakovsky dealt with post-revolutionary hecklers complaining that his work was too ‘clever’:

‘My comrades and I read your poems and didn’t understand anything.’

‘You must choose more clever comrades.’

In Michael Almereyda’s selection of writings by and about Mayakovsky, Night Wraps the Sky.

The portrait, is from MOMA’s Rodchenko exhibition. The tip came from Adam Thirlwell’s selection of ‘books of the year’.